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March 21, 2003

BELGIUM: Diesels to help Nissan to 20% sales bost by 2005 – report

Nissan expects its European sales to rebound to 580,000 units in 2005, more than 20% up from last year, with help from new diesel engines and the latest version of the Micra (March) supermini, Automotive News Europe reported. “In the past few years we’ve accepted losing market share in order to be profitable again,” said Mario Canavesi, Nissan Europe’s head of sales and marketing. “Now that Europe is again making money, we can think about expanding sales volumes and market share.”

By bcusack

Nissan expects its European sales to rebound to 580,000 units in 2005, more than 20% up from last year, with help from new diesel engines and the latest version of the Micra (March) supermini, Automotive News Europe reported.

“In the past few years we’ve accepted losing market share in order to be profitable again,” said Mario Canavesi, Nissan Europe’s head of sales and marketing. “Now that Europe is again making money, we can think about expanding sales volumes and market share.”

The Renault unit, once the fastest growing Japanese carmaker in Europe, saw its sales there fall to 475,000 units in 2002 compared with 530,000 units in 2000.

Canavesi said the new-generation Micra should sell some 160,000 units a year, compared with 140,000 for its predecessor. The Micra is performing particularly well in Italy, he added. The Micra debuted at the October 2002 Paris auto show and sales began last month.

The Micra will be helped by the introduction of a 1.5-litre Renault diesel in April.

The X-Trail sport-utility vehicle has been well received and should also help boost sales, with Nissan expecting to sell some 50,000 units in 2003, Canavesi said.

Nissan’s image-boosting 350Z sports car will be launched in September, with 4,000 units expected to be sold in Europe in the remaining months of 2003.

In France, an entry-level version of the 350Z will sell for E34,500, below competitors such as the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Honda S2000, Nissan says.

The 350Z will come equipped with a 3.5-litre, 280hp Nissan engine.

As for the upper-medium Primera, launched in 2001, Canavesi said he is hoping to bolster sales by fitting the car with a 1.9-litre dCi diesel beginning next month. The engine will be also be fitted to the lower-medium Almera and Tino compact minivan.

Canavesi disagreed that sales of the controversially styled Primera have been slow. But he noted, “Not many people are seeing sales rise in that [upper-medium] segment.”

Since the start of the decade, Nissan has been radically restructuring its European dealer network in conjunction with Renault. Many Nissan dealerships have sold to Renault dealers, whose network in the region is generally stronger.

By 2006, Canavesi expects half of Nissan’s hubs in Europe to be jointly held with Renault. The proportion of joint hubs will be as high as 80% in France and as low as 20% in Spain, where Nissan is well established.

Canavesi said that under no circumstances would Nissan and Renault cars be sold under the same showroom roof, the Automotive News Europe report said.

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