Nissan Motor has told us what needs to be done, and how it intends to get back to being a car maker which makes money. Today’s announcement of its first annual loss in eleven years also means a big shake up for the future models portfolio.
Under the guidelines of a new four-year plan called Nissan Next, JPY300bn (US$2.78bn) will be eliminated from fixed costs and the worldwide model line-up will be reduced from 69 to under 55. There are parallels in that with where Nissan Motor found itself 20+ years ago as cash was dwindling and a strategy of matching Toyota vehicle for vehicle was leading to ruin.
Renault’s boss Louis Schweitzer sought Nissan Motor’s permission to take a 36.8% stake in the company in March 1999 at a cost equivalent to USD5.4bn and insisted that the firm’s existing management team be the men to negotiate a debt restructuring with Japan Development Bank.
Schweitzer also sent a former Michelin executive to Yokohama, his mission being to look after Renault’s investment and eventually, once Nissan Motor’s president had been allowed to withdraw gracefully and without humiliation, take over. This man stayed a long, long time. After his initial Nissan Revival Plan met its targets, Carlos Ghosn kept upping the stakes with replacement roadmaps. With hindsight, some of these grand plans could have done with more of a focus on profits rather than volume.
Creating too much manufacturing capacity, chasing volume and churning out as many vehicles as it could were all significant factors which got Nissan into a mess back in the 1990s. Now we are at the start of Japan’s fiscal 2020-2021 and there is much work to do with the emphasis on…eliminating excess capacity and killing off models which fail to pay their way. Perhaps worryingly, global market share (“a sustainable six per cent”, said CEO Makoto Uchida earlier on 28 May) is still being talked about. Does Toyota – current cash reserves around the US75bn mark – ever talk about seeking some number for worldwide market share?
The confirmed shelving of Datsun, closing an idled Indonesian factory plus the one in Barcelona (55,000 mainly LCVs produced in 2019: 30% of capacity) in December, and lowering annual production levels at others – by ending third shifts and closing lines – should take out some 1.5 million vehicles per annum. Will that be enough to reverse the just announced loss equivalent to US6.2bn and ensure a five per cent operating margin from an anticipated 5.34m vehicles annually by 31 March 2024?
Europe and parts of Asia will no longer be priorities for the Japanese OEM, its main focus set to be on the USA, Japan and China. To its credit, Nissan Motor hasn’t talked much about what has been a really very good performance in the PRC. Possibly, its own data may be showing May as not an especially good month, but even should that prove to be the case, the brand remains strong. The Sylphy is a runaway success and the main reason why Nissan brand sales hit an impressive 122,846 units in April, a 1.1 per cent annual gain.
If China is a bright spot, the home market isn’t. This is in long term decline due to the ongoing shrinkage of Japan’s population. The US and Canada are also in a hole, albeit a temporary one, Mexico too – one of those rare countries where Nissan is number one – and Europe suddenly looks shaky for a while at least. So for now, the emphasis will surely be on China.
Under a reboot for the Alliance, Renault-Dacia gets to be the OEMs’ main force in EU-EFTA-UK, the diamond logo brand also being the lead marque for South America, North Africa and Russia. As for MMC, it’s now tasked with sticking to what it does best: pick-ups for Oceania and ASEAN countries along with selected cars and SUVs.
What will Nissan’s new world of five million vehicles per year look like? The details have yet to be spelled out but it would seem that the loss of Barcelona’s LCVs and the passenger versions of the Navara pick-up will be the gain of a Nissan plant in South Africa (Rosslyn) and a Renault one in France (Maubeuge).
Other adjustments may include the next Renault Kadjar being built in England as well as some overflow Captur production to help the Washington/Sunderland factory get back towards its half a million capacity. What then becomes of Groupe Renault’s Palencia plant? What indeed: there may not be a next generation Mégane, so with neither that model nor a future Kadjar, this could be a second Spanish site which is being marked for closure.
As for likely shifts in vehicle programmes, much of what had been planned remains in place, although with cuts here and there. In short, not only will fewer cars be built but the ones coming will have shorter life cycles, Nissan reckons. Perhaps terrible, astonishing decisions such as keeping the US and Canada’s Frontier and Europe’s Juke in production for respectively 16 and 9+ years, will not be repeated.
Nissan revealed a preview of the Roox, a 660 cc microcar, at the 2019 Tokyo motor show in the form of the IMk concept. The production model was announced in February and went on sale in Japan during the following month. The engine’s code is BR06. Its life cycle should be six-seven years with a facelift in 2023.
The latest generation of the Versa, a Subcompact/B segment model, was revealed at a US music festival in April 2019. Nissan’s Thailand operations also began building this model last year. There it is called Almera. The mid-life facelift should take place in 2023 with the successor due in 2026, possibly sooner.
The Altima was once a very successful model name but changes in buyer preference across most US states means that it’s nowadays less so. For that reason, the Smyrna complex in Tennessee is to lose its third shift, Altima production being consolidated at the Mississippi plant which also makes it: Canton. That site is getting some cuts too, the third line now scheduled for closure. It should come as little shock that this will mean the end of X61F, the giant NV van and passenger vans which never caught on with Americans.
Altima generation six, new for the 2019 model year, is due a facelift in just over a year’s time. The successor should follow in 2024. That car is expected to be called Teana in relevant countries, as is the current series.
Z35, the replacement for Japan’s Fairlady Z and the rest of the world’s 370Z, continues to be delayed as Nissan has many other priorities and has struggled to make a business case for any sports car projects. A new Z would supposedly be based on the Infiniti Q60 although there should be a roadster version of the Nissan. If this event goes ahead, the world premiere could take place at the LA auto show in November with production to commence three months later. Nissan could still kill the Z35 project, even at this late stage, although a Youtube clip suggests that a concept (or production car?) is coming.
Will the world ever seen a new GT-R? The existing one has been in production at Tochigi since 2007 and now the next generation is said to have been delayed until late 2023. The R36 series model will likely be a hybrid or possibly a plug-in hybrid.
Speaking to the media at an event in Australia in August 2019, a company executive downplayed any replacement for the car in the short term. Hiroshi Tamura, Nissan Motor Company’s GT-R and Z Chief Product Specialist, said that no replacement had been signed off by the board at that time. He even hinted that the R35 could continue to be improved and remain in production until potentially 2027 though this seems unlikely.
N61P is said to be the code for the next Navara/Frontier/NP300 series model. It will use an evolution of the Mitsubishi L200/Triton platform and launched in either 2021 or 2022.
Will Nissan North America exit the full size pick-up segment? It’s certainly possible but for now, the Titan continues. The facelifted, 2020 model year truck was revealed at the Texas state fair in September last year.
As part of the changes, Nissan swapped the truck’s seven-speed automatic gearbox for one with nine ratios, while the 5.6-litre V8 became the sole engine and gained ten horsepower. Outputs are 400 hp and 413 lb-ft. The same applies for the Titan XD, facelifted versions of which were announced in October 2019, also new for the 2020 model year. Deliveries of all variants commenced in January.
Nissan is said to now be exploring the idea of exporting the Titan to markets such as China, Australia, the Middle East and Russia. That could help the business case for a successor series, although a decision on whether or not to go ahead is probably a year away, possibly longer.
The current generation of this big truck was introduced for the 2016 model year so theoretically there is still half a decade – maybe more – of production left in it. On the other hand, should sales not improve, NNA may kill the Titan: US sales were a mere 5,732 in Q1 and 31,514 in 2019.
A locally-made mini-SUV for the Indian market is supposed to be on its way. The positioning and size will be below the Kicks, with EM2 (project code: model name not yet known but Magnite is rumoured) to use the Alliance’s CMF-A platform. Launch timings and life cycle details of this project – originally due to be a Datsun – can be found in PLDB.
The Kicks e-Power is a small crossover with a range-extending series hybrid powertrain (REEV). There are in fact two models called Kicks but this one is the original which dates to 2016. It was facelifted earlier this month and also went into production in Thailand at the same time, joining plants in Mexico, Brazil and China which were already manufacturing non-hybrid versions.
The Thai-made Kicks comes only in e-Power form. As with the two generations of the Chevy Volt, such named Nissans are electrically driven but have a back-up petrol engine which will automatically fired up when the energy stored in a battery is exhausted or the driver presses the throttle pedal firmly. A case can be made for labelling the Kicks e-Power an EV, something which Nissan itself does in fact do.
Drive goes only to the front axle, this being powered solely by a motor. The lithium-ion battery has a capacity of just 1.57 kWh and the range extender 1.2-litre engine has three cylinders. Nissan quotes combined outputs of 95 kW (129 PS) and 260 Nm (192 lb ft). Details of the life cycle of this vehicle as well as that of other Kicks models are in PLDB.
The second generation Juke is 4,210 mm long, a gain of 75 mm over the original with a wheelbase stretched by 106 mm. There is more room for back seat passengers, while the boot’s capacity is 422 l compared to only 354 in the first generation model. This small crossover is based upon the Alliance’s CMF-B architecture.
After being announced to the media in September 2019, Nissan began manufacturing the Juke in the north east of England during the following month, with the first cars arriving in dealerships from the end of November. The sole engine so far is the Alliance and Daimler’s 999cc three-cylinder petrol turbo in 117 PS form. This is available with six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual clutch transmissions. There is still no news on a potential diesel alternative but an e-Power series REEV is said to be on the way.
We should expect a facelift in early 2023 and a third generation in 2025/2026.
The next generation of the Rogue/X-Trail should use an update of the CMF C/D architecture upon which the current models are based. These SUVs will again be manufactured in multiple plants. North America’s 2021 model year Rogue had been expected to be a world debut at the New York auto show in April. Smyrna in Tennessee was due to start building this as yet unseen new model this month but that hasn’t happened. A fresh start date is still to be announced.
Nissan engineers, meanwhile, are finalising the developing of a multi-model architecture for the Alliance’s electric vehicles. The IMx concept at the 2017 Tokyo motor show was claimed to be the first vehicle for this platform which is distinguished by a flat floor. Yet to be given a publicly stated name, the skateboard-style matrix will be used for small to large cars and SUVs. One of the debut production models for the EV architecture, now just a year away, may retain the name of a concept: Ariya (see image).
Nissan North America showed a prototype of this Rogue/X-Trail sized SUV to its dealers in September 2019, telling them that it would be available during the second half of 2021. The range will be around 300 miles. The Ariya will be offered with E-4ORCE, which was showcased for the first time at CES in January. This is a twin-motor, electric all-wheel-drive system.
The Nissan logo which the Ariya concept had is expected to have been a preview of either a new one for the brand or else a special one for future electric Nissans.
As for the various other larger Nissan SUVs and crossovers, one of them, P42R/W42R, is due to be revealed soon. The life cycle of the next Pathfinder should be eight years, which means a facelift in the second half of 2024. Many other unibody, frame and skateboard platform models which can be classified as crossovers and SUVs are listed in PLDB.
Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.
Future platform intelligence
More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of GlobalData’s Automotive Intelligence Center. That includes the multiple Nissan models not featured in this report.
This was the final one of multiple reports which looked at all passenger vehicle divisions of Groupe Renault and Nissan Motor. It followed insights into what’s ahead for Alpine and Renault, Samsung (RSM: Renault Samsung Motors), Lada, Mitsubishi, Datsun and Venucia. The next OEM will be Geely Holding.