“Please give me a little bit more time.”
That was the answer from Yutaka Sanada, Nissan Motor Limited's Regional Senior Vice President and chairman of the Managing Committee for Nissan Asia and Oceania, when we asked him during the Philippine EV Summit on the possibility of the company selling the new generation Nissan Livina in the Philippine market.
“I cannot share the product plan [and] precise information unfortunately,” continued Sanada. “Naturally as Alliance we are considering all options, and it is [an] obvious case.”
The Livina, a name that hasn't appeared in our country's dealerships in a long time, is a seven-seat compact multi-purpose vehicle from Nissan. The previous generation Livina was launched by one of the predecessors of the current national sales company which was Nissan Motor Philippines, Inc. (NMPI). The model was eventually discontinued, up until earlier this year when Nissan revealed a new generation Livina.
The reason it looks familiar is because it is essentially a restyled version of the Xpander, Mitsubishi's hot-selling MPV that was launched in 2017 in Indonesia. It is also made in the same factory as the Xpander and offered in Indonesia; a market with strong ties to seven seat multi-purpose vehicles.
That may seem strange for Nissan to offer what is essentially a Mitsubishi, but Nissan, as many of us know, is now the single largest shareholder of Mitsubishi Motors since late 2016. The move made Mitsubishi a part of the Alliance, otherwise known as the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance.
It is common practice in the auto industry to share components, suppliers, vehicle architectures, right up to entire vehicles across the many brands in a particular group; the last one refers to a practice known as “badge engineering”. Judging from the responses from the executives, it could be reasoned that Mitsubishi isn't too keen on offering what is currently one of their most successful models to be badged by a competing (yet related) brand especially in terms of what the customer would feel, but Sanada reassures us that won't be a problem.”
“We have alliance to share the components or some thing, but in front of the customer brand cannot be combined or mixed up. That's the reason why sometimes one brand is very against to sharing some advanced success,” said Nissan's top man for Asia and Oceania.
We asked how challenging it is for an automaker acquiring the model of another brand, especially in light of the unusual situation between Toyota's Supra and the BMW Z4. Sanada says that won't be a problem for the Livina.
“[On] Toyota and BMW I cannot comment, but frankly we are [have] the experience between Renault and Nissan. We have collaborated deeply for a long time. We are checking the brand independence,” said Sanada.
“It takes very careful planning [for] brand separation,” continued Nissan's Regional SVP “Normally we can drive synergy, I think much more naturally than other OEM cases.”
We first caught wind of Nissan's plan to acquire the Xpander for themselves as a Nissan-badged model several years ago, and it's interesting to see it come to fruition. Whether we will see it or not on Philippine roads and Nissan dealerships is another question, but judging by Sanada's enthusiasm to offer a model with such potential in our market, we won't be surprised if he lobbies the board hard to sell the Livina here.
“The Xpander is a [successful] model, so why not.” said Sanada.