PARIS - Nissan will mount a sales assault across western and eastern Europe when production of the new Almera starts at its plant in Sunderland, UK.
Hartmut Kieven, new Nissan Europe vice president for sales, wants market share to increase from 3.2 percent to 4 percent in western Europe when the Almera is introduced in 2000.
For the first time since 1992, Nissan's sales in Europe are heading for over 500,000. Sales are up 8.1 percent at 373,000 through September. The UK remains the biggest market with 100,000, just ahead of Germany.
Locally built vehicles currently account for 75 percent of sales in Europe. This will increase to 85 percent with the Almera at Sunderland and its multi-purpose vehicle variant, which will be assembled in Barcelona, Spain.
'Sunderland is at full capacity and building all the cars we can sell,' Kieven said. 'It is flat out with weekend and overtime working. I have never been so impressed by a manufacturing plant. But there is still room for further utilization when the new model comes online, along with the investment already planned.'
Kieven said Nissan is growing in east European markets. CIS countries are showing a 200 percent increase year-on-year with 10,000 sales in the year to September. Nissan sold 4,000 cars in Hungary in 1997, up 100 percent. Sales in Poland are expected to rise from 7,500 in 1997 to 10,000 in 1999.
In these markets, Kieven said, the Almera replacement would be a
vital addition due to the popularity of lower-medium segment models.
He said that Nissan now needs to work on its image in Europe and to build stronger partnerships with dealer networks and distributors.
'We want our dealers to exceed the expectations of the customer, particularly in after sales service,' Kieven said. 'We want to make sure we keep our customers mobile. To do this, we will have to work together to come up with new ways of doing business.
'We are making detailed studies of efficiencies and processes to improve the way dealerships do business. Dealers are investors and it is important that they make money, particularly when competition is so fierce.
'We know Nissan is recognized for value for money, durability, reliability and quality. But we have to be better at delivering that message to new customers.'
Nissan has seven direct-import operations in Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands, plus 23 independent importers.