1. What are your views on the performance of the automotive sector in the GCC region?
If we look at the overall performance of the automotive sector on a calendar year basis then the GCC market is considered stable. However, we have seen a recent progressive market decline over the last couple of months. When operating in tough market conditions, we need to be more dynamic and make an effort to be closer to the needs of our customers.
At Nissan, we have continued to deliver against our Power 88 brand strategy into our financial year 2015, adding to our constant line-up of models available in the region. As proof of this, we have launched the all new Nissan Maxima 2016 and also introduced the performance arm of Nissan in the region – known as NISMO. Alongside the launch of the NISMO brand in the Middle East, we also revealed a world premiere – the Nissan Patrol NISMO.
2. With low oil prices, UAE fuel deregulation, expected cuts in fuel subsidies in other GCC countries, how do you see the auto sector behaving in 2016?
This year there has been added pressure on the Middle East’s GDP due to fluctuations in oil price. However, reports show that GDP growth across GCC region in particular will remain positive with a slight downward trend compared to last year.
At this stage, it is still too early to see any effect of petrol price deregulation in the UAE on the automotive sector. However, this strategic decision should encourage people across the country to consider using more fuel efficient vehicles such as Hybrids.
At Nissan, we are believers in supporting sustainable driving technology and offering greater fuel efficiency across all of our models. The All New Nissan Maxima 2016, which was launched recently in the Middle East, is a great example of how innovative technology can provide high performance teamed with being the most fuel efficient car in its segment. Its 3.5-liter VQ-series V6 has been redesigned with more than 60 percent new parts (compared to the previous generation 3.5-liter V6). This revised engine helps it achieve an anticipated 15 percent increase in highway fuel economy to an EPA estimated 30 miles per gallon.
We also recently launched the Pathfinder Hybrid in the UAE, which offers a best-in-class range of 785KM on a single tank and a further efficient fuel consumption of 9.1L/100km.
3. How would you sum up performance of your auto brand in 9M 2015?
The first half of 2015 (April to September) was a successful period this year for Nissan on a global level. We saw net revenue of 5.93 trillion yen, an increase of 15.3% versus 5.14 trillion yen a year ago. In terms of operating profit, it was 395 billion yen, up from 261.9 billion yen, a 50.8% increase.
Nissan’s net income was 485.0 billion yen, an increase of 37.4% versus 237 billion yen in the prior year. As for the unit sales count, we witnessed an increase of 9.5% to 7,222,000. To sum it up, the company sold 2.62 million vehicles globally during the period, a 1.3% rise year-on-year, and that is something that we are very proud about.
In 2015, Nissan was also named as one of the world’s most valuable brands, according to Interbrand, the world-leading brand consultancy. In its Best Global Brands Study 2015, which also named Nissan as the fastest-rising automotive brand, Nissan ranked 49, up from 56 in 2014. The study also valued Nissan’s brand at $9.082 billion, up 19% from 2014.
4. Which was the biggest market in GCC/Middle East, what were the best performing models, and where did you see maximum growth?
Earlier in May 2015, we announced our financial results for our 2014 fiscal year (April 1st to 31st March), which demonstrated that in the UAE, Nissan maintained its strong No 2 position in the sales charts, selling 63,036 units – up by 10% versus 2013 and achieving 15.3% market share. Nissan’s purchase consideration in the UAE has also increased by 46% in the past two years, closing the gap with the market leader.
In KSA, after the first full year of operation of its revival plan, Nissan with its Kingdom wide dealer Alissa Auto has reached the 3rd position in sales with 61,806 units, reaching 7.2% market share, which represents 141.7% growth year on year vs FY13. Furthermore, Nissan Brand Purchase Consideration has strengthened by 27% reaching the second position in the market.
In our last financial year, the Nissan line-up has performed extremely well across the spectrum but sales of the famed Patrol, dubbed the ‘Hero of all Terrains in Life’, the facelifted Juke, the Nissan Sunny, Pathfinder and X-Trail have been exceptional.
The Nissan Juke, over the past year, has forged ahead with highly impressive sales results. The vehicle now has a six per cent share of the SUV-S market segment – jumping from five per cent a year ago. In the UAE, the Juke’s share has jumped from eight to 11 per cent and, in March 2015, it was the best-selling car in its segment in the entire country. It is a success story repeated throughout the region and, as Nissan Middle East looks forward to 2016, it does so from a position of enormous strength through ‘Innovation that Excites’.
The Nissan Sunny also contributed to the record breaking results, by achieving 29,688 units in 2014 with 30% sales growth from last year. Nissan Pathfinder recorded 15 per cent growth with 6,800 units and the Nissan X-Trail recorded a significant growth increase of 300 per cent with 4,400 units. We have also witnessed a significant rise in fleet sales in the recent results within our LCV segment, with the Nissan Urvan recording a 24% growth in GCC compared to last year.
Our growth strategy is to focus on establishing the highest levels of quality and expanding our network in Saudi Arabia, which currently represents a significant market share of our business model.
5. What do connected cars mean for the industry? When will we have such vehicles in the region?
Consumers nowadays want technologies and automated systems that enable them to drive safely, for longer. While zero-emission vehicles are one solution to mega-city pollution, another will be greater vehicle autonomy. Autonomous technology already exists in our industry. Motorists don’t think twice about using automatic transmissions or cruise control. The next step – and it is a big step – is to secure both the regulatory framework and consumer adoption to make autonomous driving a reality.
At Nissan, we are already working with industry leaders to seek workable regulatory standards. We have shown, in road tests, how new technologies such as automatic lane-changing and automated parking can enhance the driving experience, and make it safer.
There is a big difference between autonomous drive technology championed by Nissan, and self-driving cars. Autonomous Drive is about relieving motorists of everyday tasks, particularly in congested or long-distance situations. The driver remains in control, at the wheel, of a car that is capable of doing more things automatically. Self-driving cars, by comparison, don’t require any human intervention – and remain a long-way from commercial reality. They are suitable only for tightly-controlled road-environments, at slow speeds, and face a regulatory minefield.
That is why Nissan is focused on autonomous drive technologies that we know will work, and can be introduced over the next 4 to 5 years. We aim to be ready with revolutionary, commercially viable autonomous driving technology by 2020, with a goal of bringing the next two autonomous-drive technologies to market by 2016.
An example of this technology is our “Safety Shield” – a system of cameras, sensors and actuators that monitors risk all around the car and can help to avert an accident. This includes fully-automated parking systems and a traffic-jam pilot, in which cars will have the capability to drive autonomously and safely on congested highways. This will be followed in 2018 by the introduction of multiple-lane controls, allowing cars to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes. Before the end of the decade, we will introduce intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention.
Today cars like the new Qashqai and new X-Trail have advanced park-assist systems. By 2017, we expect parking to be fully automated, and by 2019 increasingly remote – so that cars can be parked in a controlled setting without a driver at the wheel.
In addition, we have already started deploying the idea of connected cars in the region with our latest announcement of the ‘Nissan SmartCar’ mobile app in partnership with Etisalat. The ‘Nissan SmartCar’ mobile app is the region’s first connected car deployment, which is the coming together of communications and auto technologies, information systems and safety devices for increased levels of sophistication and automation in vehicles.
Through the recently launched mobile app, powered by Etisalat’s network and M2M Control Center platform, the all-new Nissan Maxima 2016 and the Nissan Patrol MY16 will provide customers with convenience, control and security. It will allow drivers to remotely lock or unlock their vehicles, control cooling and even instantly message the owner if the car is involved in a collision.
Nissan has already started pre-installing a small device within the car, which will be connected via an Etisalat M2M SIM card. Nissan’s partnership with Etisalat on this strategic project ensures the smart application will run successfully on any smartphone, operating system or service network.
All this shows that Nissan is pioneering a more intuitive partnership between car and driver, relieving the motorists of tasks that can be safely automated.
6. What are the new technologies that your brand has adopted in terms of improving vehicle performance, efficiency, safety etc.?
As a customer centric company, we try and understand what is important to our perspective buyers and then ensure that we can offer models that offer the features that people need.
Performance with the All New NISMO Line-Up
In terms of offering new models with improved performance, Nissan just launched our motorsport brand, NISMO in the Middle East. By bringing the ‘NISMO’ Brand to the Middle East, we are proving our passion for performance, as well as heralding the next step in ‘Innovation that Excites’ for regional motorsports enthusiasts.
As part of our performance road car line-up, we showcased three NISMO models – the 370Z NISMO, the GT-R NISMO, and the Patrol NISMO. The Patrol NISMO was a world-premiere for Nissan as we could not have launched NISMO in the region without including our most iconic model – the Nissan Patrol – in the range of NISMO vehicles.
We Recognized that off-roading and motorsports form the life-blood of regional drive enthusiasts, therefore we believe the time is right to introduce the Patrol NISMO in the Middle East as proof of our commitment to making thrilling driving experiences accessible to all our customers.
Efficiency & Sustainability in the All New Maxima 2016
In recent years, we have noticed that there has been rising interest in more fuel efficient vehicles that also come with a host of safety and technology features. We are big believers in supporting sustainable driving technology and offering greater fuel efficiency across all our models.
These features are all also included in our Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. We believe this model appeals to a wide consumer base. With its impressive power and space as an SUV, it is a great choice for the outgoing explorer. Its fuel efficiency credentials also make it a desirable choice for families that do a lot of driving and are more conscious about running costs.
Safety & Security in the All New Nissan Maxima 2016
Nissan’s commitment to the highest standards and best value in total cost of maintenance is is one of the leading features of our all-new Nissan Maxima 2016. Nissan’s safety rating and commitment to keep total cost of maintenance very competitive across the Middle East will bolster sales substantially over the coming years. Additionally, a host of factors contribute to the Nissan Maxima’s lower running costs such as greater fuel efficiency, new technologies, build quality, durability and safety.
In terms of its safety features, the all new Nissan Maxima’s next-generation premium-level technology features includes a standard 7.0-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display (ADAD) within the instrument cluster. The vehicle boasts an extensive range of safety, security and driving aids, including Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (CTA) and Blind Spot Warning (BSW).
The all new Nissan Maxima 2016 also offers an available Driver Attention Alert (DAA) system which monitors steering input patterns to establish a baseline and helps alert the driver when drowsy or inattentive driving is detected (only on Nissan Maxima SR grade).
In addition, the all new Nissan Maxima 2016 showcases ‘Safety Shield’, which is a system of cameras, sensors and actuators that monitors risk all around the car and can help to avert an accident. This includes fully-automated parking systems and a traffic-jam pilot, in which cars will have the capability to drive autonomously and safely on congested highways.
7. What are the major challenges for the auto sector/your brand in the GCC?
In addition to the oil price and currency fluctuation challenges which we highlighted earlier, it is about constantly listening to the market needs and delivering on our strategy.
Under the Power 88 Mid Term plan, Nissan Middle East is focusing on Brand Power with the constant renewal of our Line-up. This includes engagement with our audiences, in particular the youth, through unique and differentiating platforms such as GT Academy, which takes virtual gamers and transforms them into racers. In addition to this, we are focusing on Sales Power with quality and quantity of the network, and a strong emphasis on customer experience excellence.
At Nissan, we continuously listen to our customers’ needs through which we recognized that off-roading and motorsports form the life-blood of regional drive enthusiasts. As proof of our commitment to making thrilling driving experiences accessible to all our customers, we recently added the Patrol NISMO and the Patrol Desert Edition to the Patrol family.
Nissan Patrol NISMO is a race-inspired version of Nissan’s legendary SUV-Patrol which is powered by a Takumi tuned engine that produces 428 HP for exhilarating performance. The model comes with a torque improvement of over 70% rev-range, NISMO 22″ RAYS forged-alloy wheels and NISMO tuned suspension using ‘Bilstein’ shock absorbers for improved handling and ride comfort.
Nissan Patrol Desert Edition, a new model conceptualized and developed in collaboration with the Middle East’s most famous and influential motorsports personality, Dr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, is powered by Nissan’s powerful 5.6L V8 engine that generates a formidable 400hp and 560Nm of torque. It is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission that incorporates manual mode and synchronised rev control – a set up that guarantees unmatched driving enjoyment, whatever the terrain.
8. Do you think the auto sector’s growth in the GCC will slow down as the market is over-served?
Our regional strategy for success is based on the well-known Nissan global growth strategy ‘Power 88’, which our CEO Carlos Ghosn announced we would achieve by 2016. Under the Power 88 Mid Term plan we have announced Nissan Middle East’s target is to sell over 300K units by FY16 and reach 10% Market Share in the whole region and 14.5% Market Share in the GCC.
Under the Power 88 Mid Term plan, Nissan Middle East is focusing on Brand Power with the constant renewal of our Line-up. This includes engagement with our audiences, in particular the youth, through unique and differentiating platforms such as GT Academy, which transforms virtual gamers into racers. In addition to this, we are focusing on Sales Power with quality and quantity of the network, and a strong emphasis on customer experience excellence.
Over the past few months, we have launched the all new Nissan Maxima 2016. We introduced the performance arm of Nissan in the region known as NISMO with the world premiere of the Nissan Patrol NISMO. We also launched the Nissan Patrol Desert Edition in collaboration with the renowned, Dr Mohammed Ben Sulayem. To keep delivering the best auto experience to our customers, we launched the ‘Nissan SmartCar’ mobile app in collaboration with Etisalat.
At Nissan, we strive to create unique experiences to engage with our audiences. Our ‘Nissan Patrol: The Movie’ activation at the recent Dubai International Motor Show is an example of reaching out to our direct and indirect consumers. ‘Nissan Patrol: The Movie’ uses the latest in green screen technology and blockbuster cinema camera equipment so that people can have the chance to star in an action-packed movie trailer, featuring the 2016 Nissan Patrol.
9. How is Nissan contributing to the global efforts being made around the climate change?
At Nissan, we are big believers in supporting sustainable driving as a contribution to all the global efforts that are being made by governments and industry leaders around climate change. As a testament to that, the Renault-Nissan alliance provided 200 electric vehicles to the International Conference at COP21 that took place in Paris earlier in November. The fleet covered around 400 km during the event and emitted zero emissions while driving.
The fleet was the world’s largest electric vehicle fleet ever provided to an international conference, and further strengthened the alliance’s position as the official passenger-car provider for the United Nations’ COP21 climate conference.
The COP21 car fleet featured the Renault ZOE subcompact car, the Nissan LEAF compact car and the 7-seater Nissan e-NV200 van. The vehicles were available to shuttle delegates 24 hours, seven days a week to and from the Le Bourget conference venue, as a complement to public transportation.
This marked the first time the U.N. have used a zero-emission or 100% electric fleet for ferrying participants in a climate summit, and we were glad to be the official transportation partner.
In addition to that, earlier in May 2015 we announced our great progress in reducing CO2 emissions and improving sustainability in our global corporate activities in fiscal year 2014, while simultaneously increasing vehicle production and plant energy efficiency. The company achieved a 22.6 percent cut in CO2 when compared to fiscal year 2005, thus achieving its goal to reduce CO2 emissions from corporate activities by 20 percent during that period.
Nissan continues to work toward achieving its environmental targets set forth in the company’s action plan, Nissan Green Program 2016 (NGP2016), through a number of innovative sustainability initiatives in Corporate Carbon Footprint Minimization and Zero Emission Vehicle Penetration.
Manju Mathew, an MBA in marketing, completed publisher training courses from the Oxford Brookes University and New York University. She started with marketing and PR roles before moving on to her current position as a full time writer. Currently living in Dubai, her life as an expat has sharpened her observation skills and flair for writing. She enjoys writing about luxury cars like Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc even if she can only dream of owning them.
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