Nissan will launch the new Micra in SA in May as it tries to regain lost ground in the passenger car segment. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK
Nissan will launch the new Micra in SA in May as it tries to regain lost ground in the passenger car segment. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

Nissan SA expects to grow its market share after launching a bevy of new models in the past year, including the Micra Active, Navara, X-Trail and Qashqai, mildly refreshed 370Z and GT-R sports cars and the new Patrol.

In May, the new Micra will finally break cover in SA, while the all-electric new Leaf is earmarked for the third quarter, rounding off the company’s local portfolio for the time being.

Thanks to its alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, the company has many resources at its disposal and many of the future products will share a number of components to save money on individual research and development.

Xavier Gobille, director of sales and marketing at Nissan SA, said the company had experienced its best 12-month sales in SA since 2000. The Japanese manufacturer hit 10% market share in fiscal year 2017, with passenger vehicle sales growing 44% year on year.

Nissan SA managing director Mike Whitfield. Picture: MOTORPRESS
Nissan SA managing director Mike Whitfield. Picture: MOTORPRESS

In the bakkie segment, it took a share of 19.5% up by nearly a fifth. Datsun sales rose to 1.3%, the brand’s highest market share in SA since 1981.

In sub-Saharan Africa sales also grew, rising to 13.9% in market share.

Gobille said that they were planning to expand the Datsun Go range, which is likely to include the Go Cross that was unveiled in Indonesia earlier in 2018. It is essentially a seven-seater multipurpose vehicle to take on the Honda BR-V, but let’s hope it comes without the safety woes of its siblings.

"Nissan is now poised to build on our success with further growth in Africa," Mike Whitfield, MD of Nissan SA, said. "We have invested almost R1bn to increase the efficiency of our plant at Rosslyn, increasing automation without reducing jobs, and in training and skills development for our people."

The company says it is incubating about seven individuals to become suppliers as part of its transformation mandate. In the grand scheme of things this is a small number, but Whitfield has reassured us they are planning to expand that footprint.

More than R150m has been invested in staff training, Gobille said. We have more than a hunch it has to do with the new Navara finally being built locally after a nearly two-year delay. An announcement in this regard is likely to be made by the end of May to coincide with the R500m that has been invested at its Rosslyn plant.

Whether this will mean that Nissan SA will also be building some Mercedes-Benz X-Class models or even the Renault Alaskan, all of which share a platform and some drivetrains with the Navara, remains to be seen, although Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler, has told Motor News that the matter is being considered.

Nissan SA remains rather vague about the topic though.

Nissan has managed to alter its image somewhat from being a brand that, at least in the local context, was selling more commercial vehicles than passenger cars. The tide seems to have changed significantly over the past about 18 months. While the Micra shares a platform with the Clio, Gobille said it would offer a slight premium offering over its Gallic sibling.

That could then mean it will command a slightly higher capital outlay, but it will be interesting to see where it stacks up against the new Volkswagen Polo, which remains the one to beat in this segment.