Companies

‘Can’t repeat Maruti, Hyundai’s successes’

Roudra Bhattacharya | Updated on March 12, 2018

On top gear: Takayuki Ishida, MD and CEO, Nissan Motor India.

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Interview

We need to learn from them and differentiate, says Nissan India MD

Nissan clearly has major designs for India. Built just two years ago, its first joint car plant globally (near Chennai) with partner Renault, is said to be close to its full annual output of 4 lakh units.

How? Well, it exported five times more Micra hatches to destinations such as Western Europe than it sold at home.

With the auto alliance now expected to double output in India by 2016, big things are awaited from Nissan. It starts this month with the launch of the Evalia MPV, while rumours say that another small car and an SUV are also in the works.

In an interview with Business Line, Takayuki Ishida, Managing Director and CEO of Nissan Motor India, talks about new products, challenges and the big bang of 2014, when it hopes to take on biggies, Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai, with the re-launch of the ‘Datsun’ brand.

Excerpts from the interview:

On the Evalia launch this month, Nissan’s third key model in India after Micra and Sunny

The Evalia will try to open a new segment for the Indian customer in the MUV segment. Customer demands have moved from the traditional sedan to something with more space but with a car-like driving feeling.

The Toyota Innova is a giant in the segment, which is our biggest competition. For customers with chauffeurs, it is good, but drivability may not be as nice. The Evalia will be for the weekend lifestyle.

The three-row seating Evalia shares base technicals with the NV200, but it is really a totally changed product.

The engine, which is currently only the 1.5-litre K9K diesel, is also different from other markets.

We’re focussing more on the light weight structure, which improves drivability.

On partner Ashok Leyland developing its version of the Evalia

They will introduce their version of the Evalia much later. They share the basic technology, but will focus on the commercial segment, while we will focus on the personal car segment.

We’re using some technology of theirs to produce the vehicle at a cheaper price, but the main technology is from Nissan.

On entry-level sub brand, Datsun, launch in 2014

Datsun will also be under our management. It is still under discussion where the cars under this brand will be manufactured.

It is meant for growing markets such as India, Russia and Indonesia, where customers have newly entered the car market and so their expectations are different.

We think between the countries where Datsun is launched, there will be slight differences.

To be competitive, we’ll have to be highly localised and use our expanding domestic supply base. We’ll announce more details by middle of next year globally.

On Nissan’s plans to have products below the Micra

We’re always watching if there is any room to introduce a new product. But, we have to think about maintaining the Nissan brand in terms of the customer’s expectation at that price range.

In Datsun, the expectation is different. The compact car market is huge, but at the same time the trend is that the customer is moving to premium hatchback, sedan and SUVs.

We’re looking for opportunities in each segment in India and focussing on those which are growing fast.

On de-growth in compact car segment due to lack of diesel options

We need to find solutions in the segment.

At present, no competitor has diesel engines for such a price range -technology-wise it is not so easy.

We don’t have small diesel engines right now below 1.5 litre, but there are studies going on in advanced technologies in Japan.

On outsourcing marketing and sales to Hover Automotive

It is a unique strategy. Hover is a distributor for us in India. We trust them to know what the customers really demand.

They focus on Nissan and cannot take up other marketing tie-ups – we have a three-year contract, after which we can renew it. We have a similar system in Indonesia, where we are the manufacturer.

On brand positioning versus the competition

We’d like to become a manufacturer almost all Indians choose in their shopping list, something like Maruti. For that we have to target volumes, which I think will take at least 5-6 years. Maruti, Hyundai and Mahindra have a lot of history.

We need to quickly catch up with them, so we need to be aggressive to capture the customers. If we do the same thing as others, we cannot catch up with them.

We need to find what they’re not doing, and find potential gaps. We don’t need to repeat their success, but learn from them and differentiate.

On platform sharing with Renault

We don’t think that all products will be shared, but common technology is useful for product planning.

We will share if it is beneficial for both for us in the long-term. There is a point of view that we need to differentiate between our products.

Using the Renault Duster for our model is one of the discussion points. Renault has been good as an alliance partner and I’m happy with their success.

Financially, it is good that the plant produces products for both.

> roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on September 09, 2012

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