Platform sharing isn't an uncommon thing for the automotive industry in general, particularly for the Nissan Navara. Mercedes-Benz teamed up with Nissan to build a more upscale version of the Navara which they sold as the X-Class.
Less than a handful of the X-Class (that we know of) were are in the Philippines, but something tells us it will be different for this alternative Navara... and it comes by way of China.
The new official distributor of China's Dongfeng, Pilipinas Autogroup, Inc. (PAI), has just inaugurated their new rebranded office in Marikina City. Among the many new trucks in their range like the Dongfeng Captain, one model particularly caught our eye: it was the Dongfeng Rich 6, a pick-up that has a lot of similarities with Nissan Navara NP300.
Now before Navara loyalists storm over to their office carrying pitchforks in outrage, it might be important to know that the Rich 6 isn't an unofficial clone, as Dongfeng is actually Nissan's major joint venture partner in China. That's just the way of doing business in China by foreign automakers; to set up sales and manufacturing in the PRC they have to get a local partner (like what VW did with SAIC) and so there's the inevitable transfer of knowledge, technology, and platforms.
We've known that the new Dongfeng Philippine distributor has been looking at the Rich 6 as a model for our market, and we were actually able to drive it in Dongfeng's hometown of Wuhan, Hubei province.
Based on our brief drive, we can tell you that the Rich 6 has virtually the same mechanicals, frame, and body of the current generation Navara, but has a very different front end. The interior is also largely different as the Chinese market likes to have more color contrasts inside their vehicles, though a lot of the switchgear are similar or the same. Some variants even come with a version of the 360-degree Around View Monitor, albeit with different graphics.
Executives from PAI say that the Rich 6 will retail for about PhP 1.1 million.
George Blaylock, the chief executive of PAI, told us of his personal friendship with the then-head of Nissan China, Makoto Uchida, that led to PAI becoming a distributor of Dongfeng. Blaylock told AutoIndustriya that he wanted the Rich 6 pick-up, but he says Uchida had to hold off on it until he can get the necessary permissions from the higher ups in the Nissan Motor Company.
Now that Makoto Uchida has been elected to the top spot (he's now the CEO of Nissan Motor Company, meaning worldwide), it seems permission has been granted.
What do you think of the ChiNavara's prospects in the Philippines?