PARIS -- Nissan's decision to launch its Micra subcompact without a diesel powertrain and build the car in India have hit sales of a model that used to be its top seller in Europe.
European sales of the new Micra fell 9.5 percent during the first half, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics. The Quashqai is now Nissan's best-seling model by far, with sales up 7.1 percent in the first six months.
The Micra was launced in Europe late 2010, so this year should be a good year for sales of the hatchback since typically, a product line gets a big boost in the first full year of being on the market.
The Micra's high-efficient gasoline engine offers diesel-like low CO2 emissions, but it is not what potential buyers prefer in Europe, Carlos Da Silva, an analyst for IHS Automotive, said.
"The European markets are now so biased toward diesel and the decision to offer a [gasoline-only version] appears to have been too risky," he said.
The lack of a diesel engine is one problem, the other is concern about the car's quality because it is made in India. "Being produced in a so-called low-cost country, the car is certainly cheaper to build but it also feels cheaper," Da Silva said.
Nissan is happy
Nissan executives are happy with the car's performance. Pierre Loing, Nissan Europe's head of product strategy and planning, told Automotive News Europe that the car's European sales have met forecasts. "The Micra is absolutely in lines with our expectations," he said.
The Micra lost its place at the top of Nissan's European sales chart following the 2007 arrival of the Qashqai medium crossover. The Micra also has been passed in sales by Nissan's Juke small crossover.
According to JATO data, the Micra's annual sales have not surpassed the 100,000-unit mark since 2007. Micra sales in Europe totaled 70,883 units last year.