Nissan hopes roomy compact will win sales from rivals in Europe
GENEVA -- Nissan hopes that a spacious interior will help its new compact hatchback for Europe win customers from established players in the segment such as Ford and Renault, said Paul Willcox, Nissan's head of European sales.
"The interior packaging is outstanding. It's very big inside," Willcox told Automotive News Europe on the sidelines of the auto show here. Despite the big interior, he said the car is not a minivan and will compete with the Ford Focus and Renault Megane when it goes on sale next year.
Nissan hasn't sold a direct rival to those cars in western Europe since it withdrew the Almera from the region in 2006.
The new compact, which was not on display in Geneva, will put Nissan "back in the main swim lane" of mainstream manufacturers, Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer told journalists at the show.
Nissan wanted to make sure the car stood out in a crowded sector, said Jerry Hardcastle, Nissan's global chief marketability engineer. "If everything is the same as our competitors then you're just down to brand and price," he told ANE.
A big selling point Hardcastle sees for the Nissan is its ample rear legroom, something that is not common in the compact sector. "This kind of car is an opportunity to look after the rear passenger," he said.
He also said the car would appeal to those won over to the Nissan brand by crossovers such as the Qashqai.
Nissan said in February it would build the compact hatchback at its factory in Barcelona with an annual production of 80,000. Currently the plant builds the Pathfinder large SUV and Navara pickup.
'Bullish' on the brand
The car is part of a product offensive from Nissan that will see the brand launch 15 new vehicles in Europe by 2016, Willcox said. Of those, 10 will be sold in western Europe with the remaining cars launching in Russia, including models from low-cost brand Datsun.
The list includes products already announced, such as the Note subcompact, which made its Geneva debut this week, and the replacement for the Qashqai that arrives in 2015.
In Russia, the list will include a new mid-sized car for Nissan, Palmer said without going into detail.
Forthcoming cars will include the European-spec Nissan Leaf, which was also revealed at the Geneva show. The car has a longer range of 200km (175 miles), up from 180km, a redesigned bumper and a lowered price than the current model because of the introduction of three different trim lines.
Nissan will also launch a replacement for the X-Trail medium SUV before 2016.
Last year Nissan sold 453,823 cars in Europe, down 5.5 percent on the year before according to figures from JATO Dynamics.
Palmer told journalists the company was in a strong position in the region, despite the downturn. "Our factories are full," he said. "We're doing as well as we can. I'm pretty bullish about what we're doing here in Europe."
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