New UK car registrations last month hit the lowest level for any August since 1966 and Nissan UK managing director Paul Willcox is realistic enough to know that it's no good trying to chase volume at the moment.

"The level of debt in UK and Spain is the highest in Europe and if people aren't spending money, they are not going to buy cars. We have to concentrate on maintaining or even building our market share rather than chasing volume," he said.

He expects Nissan's UK sales to drop from 98,000 last year to around 90,000 by the end of 2008, but he reckons that will keep the company's market share steady at around 3 per cent.

Nissan is currently riding a wave of success created by the Sunderland-built Qashqai crossover vehicle that is surpassing all expectations. Sales of Qashqai have hit 250,000 across Europe in only 18 months, a feat only ever achieved before with the Altima in the USA. UK sales have reached 32,000.

Speaking at the European launch of the seven-seat Qashqai+2 - also built in Sunderland - Willcox said: "Qashqai has outstripped our expectations and our assumption is that +2 will build more sales and capture people coming out of SUVs."

Longer and with a re-profiled roofline, the Qashqai+2 goes on sale September 18 and UK sales are expected to reach 9,000 in a full year and some 50,000 Europe-wide. It is available in two- or four-wheel-drive and a choice of 2-litre petrol or diesel engines.

According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders figures, new car registrations were down 18.6 per cent to 63,225 compared with the same month in 2007 as declining consumer confidence and a fear of recession hits sales.

Year on year UK new car registrations are down 3.8 per cent to 1.46 million compared with 2007. The SMMT has reduced its forecasts for the U.K. car market to 2.26 million cars this year, down from an original forecast of 2.39 million and lower than the 2.4 million cars sold in 2007. In 2009, it expects 2.16 million sales, down from the previous forecast of 2.25 million.

Willcox admitted he could do with a small city car below the Micra although the Pixo, built in collaboration with Suzuki in Delhi, India, will debut at the Paris Motor Show next month and is expected in the "within the next 18 months".
 
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