Nissan is on the rise in the Philippines.
In 2019 the company sold 42,694 units, the most they have ever sold in a year, and elevated their ranking in the market to third overall right behind fellow Alliance brand Mitsubishi Motors in second and Toyota in first. Toyota has a commanding lead with a 35.9% market share in CAMPI. Nissan, by comparison, has a 22.2% market share in CAMPI.
Nissan Philippines, however, doesn't have an extensive or as new a line-up as Toyota. There are gaps in their model range that have not yet been filled; Nissan Philippines has no competitor in the small hatchback category, they had discontinued the US-made Altima in the executive D-segment class, and there is no Innova challenger in the larger MPV class.
They could get a small MPV in the form of the Xpander-based Nissan Livina from Indonesia in the future to fill the gap, and revamp their small car line with the new generation Almera which has just been launched in Thailand, as well as the Nissan Kicks to replace the Juke, but those models are still a long way off. For now, the company is banking on the strong sales of the Terra SUV, the Navara pick-up, and the NV350 Urvan to comprise the lion's share of their sales volume.
But one key segment they are not present in is the premium minivan class; the class that is dominated by the Toyota Alphard. To a certain extent, the Honda Odyssey can be considered a competitor, but size-wise and height wise, it's not too close.
Nissan, however, does have a direct competitor in their home market of Japan: it's called the Elgrand, and there are some very promising versions of it that can rival the Alphard, up to and including a variant that is really a limousine on wheels.
What we've just learned after a conversation last night with the president of Nissan Philippines, Mr. Atsushi Najima, is that he actually wants that model in the company's local model line-up.
“When I first came into Nissan [Philippines], I asked GHQ [Nissan's headquarters in Japan] for Elgrand,” said the president and Managing Director of Nissan Philippines. “But we're not a focus market yet to justify it.”
What Najima-san was referring to was while Nissan does have an Elgrand in Japan to directly compete against the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire in the premium or luxury MPV class, there is no production for left-hand drive versions of the current third generation model.
Given that they are unsure of what the Philippine sales volume would be like, it is reasonable to surmise that the company is apprehensive about justifying LHD production of the model. To put that in perspective, Toyota Motor Philippines sold 1,642 units of the Alphard in 2019.
The executive also pointed out that the current Nissan Elgrand is already an aging model, having been in production since 2010. The current Elgrand was facelifted and updated in 2014; that means the facelifted model pre-dates the current generation Alphard which was launched in 2015 and facelifted in 2018.
But here's the thing: the Elgrand is a prime candidate for a new generation model. If Nissan does come up with a new generation Elgrand soon, would the Philippines (now fast becoming an important market for the brand) be receptive to a left hand drive model that can be a direct Alphard competitor? Let us know in the comments below.