NISSAN has handed small car buyers a showroom edge after announcing its plans to drop the Micra and Pulsar hatch from its Australian line-up.
The carmaker announced last week that the Micra small city runabout, and the hatch version of the Nissan Pulsar small car, would both be withdrawn from the Australian market late this year.
It means Nissan dealers will be under pressure to sell both models for at least another six months – placing bargaining chips directly into buyers’ hands.
The decision to cull the Nissan Micra – a Wheels Car of the Year top three finalist in 2010 – rests on the car’s seven-year-old platform, and Nissan’s struggle to keep it competitive in a class that has moved the goalposts out of reach.
“Micra’s platform is quite old, so from a technology and specification point of view it is quite restricted compared with cars in that segment now,” said Nissan Australia chief executive Richard Emery. “Plus add Euro 5 investment – if you add all those things together, plus the competitive nature of that business, it was the right time to make the call.”
The Pulsar, meanwhile, will fall back to a single sedan body shape, with the hatch – accounting for almost half of Pulsar sales – falling to the wayside as Nissan consolidates its model line-up to focus on fleets rather than mum and dad buyers.
Emery admitted that the only bargaining chip the $13,490 Micra had on its side was price, with the platform’s ageing architecture preventing the carmaker from adding features such as full smartphone interactivity – a strong selling point of the new $13,990 Holden Spark launched earlier this month – and extra driver assist features to help improve its lacklustre four-star crash rating.
The Micra’s engine, too, would need a significant overhaul to meet tougher emissions regulations being introduced to Australia in November that have forced Nissan to cull yet another model from its range – diesel versions of the Patrol large SUV that will live on in newer petrol form.
Emery said the decision would allow the carmaker to better focus on other areas of its business in Australia, such as its strong-selling lineup of SUVs, including the compact Juke and mid-size Nissan X-Trail.
“We could split out focus by trying to make Micra and Pulsar work in a challenging environment, or we can walk away and concentrate on the cars that we know work for us, sustain our presence and then get back in the game in a couple of years’ time,” he said.
And that’s exactly Nissan’s plan. According to other sources within the organisation, Nissan intends to replace the Micra but we anticipate a two-year wait before we get a city-car replacement.
Nissan’s decision to axe the Micra and Pulsar hatch follows a similar decision made in 2014 to drop the slow-selling Almera sedan – basically a Micra with a boot – from its local showrooms to help improve the carmaker’s bottom line.
It also opted to pass on a new-generation Murano, as Nissan Australia’s management believed the business case for bringing the large SUV here would not be profitable.