‘Prepare for growth’

Time 1:30 pm, January 8, 2013

NISSAN’S UK chief is all-set to tell his dealer network, ‘get ready for growing pains’.

Speaking to Car Dealer, Nissan GB’s managing director, Jim Wright, said over the next few weeks, he and his team will be telling dealers they need to get ready for growth.

‘Looking at the product we’ve got coming over the next few years, we are the bottom of the product cycle – even if it is our best-ever year,’ Wright told us. ‘There is the potential to stretch that market share closer to six per cent sometime in 2015.’

Over the next two years, dealers will be selling three new cars and two facelift cars. In 2015, the model lineup will be completely rejuvenated.

‘Six per cent is achievable; the network needs to prepare itself for continued growth; there will be growing pains, not shrinking pains.’

Nissan finished 2012 by beating all previous records. At the year’s end, 105,835 cars were sold, giving Nissan a market share of 5.2 per cent. Total car sales were up 9.9 per from 2011’s performance of 96,269 units. Add in LCVs, and the figure is 115,970 vehicles – up 8.3 percent from 107,123 in 2011.

‘It’s a very, very strong performance in what is an ever increasingly competitive market,’ said Wright. ‘The continuing growth in market share is a testament to the work we have done over the past two to three years in terms of network management; the replacement of some under-performing dealers; new open points and the work NMGB (Nissan Motor GB) do in making sure we are treating customers well, maximising loyalty and capitalising on the good product we have got.’

One key objective is to ramp up sales of Nissan’s all-electric Leaf. Despite sales being up 10 per cent in 2012, more can be done, believes Wright.

‘Leaf production commences in the spring at our Sunderland plant, and this will give us more flexibility in terms of pricing,’ he said. ‘At the moment Leaf is a reasonably expensive car and that is one of the issues. We have a big job to do in terms of stimulating customers.

‘Every dealer is now ‘Leaf sales compliant’ – this happened at the end of 2012. We started with 32 dealers and now we are up to around 180, and our view now is every salesperson should be equipped to sell Leafs.’

Wright believes building the Leaf in the UK only matters to the customer indirectly, but more about ‘Nissan taking a car to mass-market in a more conventional way.’ Wright admits selling the Leaf has been difficult due to Nissan ‘not making any money in the car’ making marketing and communication difficult.

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‘Moving to Sunderland will free-up this investment, so we will invest more in advertising. We will ramp-up Leaf TV adverting in 2013,’ he said.

‘One difficulty we have had is us overestimating the advantage of being first to market, and maybe underestimating the disadvantage of being first to market. When you’re first with new technology, a certain proportion of the car’s reception is sceptical – and you do that in the middle of an economic crisis, just before the Japanese Tsunami.

‘It’s had a difficult birth. What I think will happen over the next year, is as more competitors come to market – VW, BMW, Renault and Ford – this will help develop the market. I think we underestimated that when you are alone with new technology, this is quite difficult because you are trying to convince the entire market.’

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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