Nissan remains committed to launching LEAF

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Focuses on customer to weather economic storm

Nissan Philippines remains unperturbed despite the decline in auto sales this 2020. Atsushi Najima, president of Nissan in the Philippines says the carmaker is weathering the economic storm thanks to a change in mindset in the company, and remains committed to their plans including launching the all-electric LEAF before the end of their fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2021.

Last year, Nissan finished as the country’s fastest growing brand with a 22.2 percent sales growth year-on-year. This was enough to cement their position as the country’s third bestselling brand with a 10.41 percent market share.

In 2020, however, Nissan’s impressive growth streak came to an abrupt halt. With challenges brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the Taal ashfall earlier in the year, year-to-date figures dropped 54.2 percent. Regardless, they remain as the country’s third bestselling brand.

NPI president Atsushi Najima

Despite the government easing lockdowns and restrictions, Najima-san says Philippine auto sales remain slow to recover. Both the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) and Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID) both report year-to-date sales down by 48 percent. This is the second slowest recovery in the entire ASEAN region.

Moreover, Najima-san reveals that the only “bright spots” in the industry are in the entry-level segments such as the A-segment passenger car (Toyota Wigo, etc.) and the B-segment low SUV (Suzuki S-Presso, etc.).

With buyers skewing towards these segments, and Nissan not having a product offering in either segment as of now, Najima-san has instead instructed his team to focus on segments where they are strong such as the pickup truck and mid-sized SUV segments.

Nissan Terra

This strategy has paid off with both the Navara and the Terra having retained their position as the second bestselling nameplates in their respective categories. The 370Z sportscar has also been strong for the brand, selling in “double digits” every single month since its July availability.

Hailed as the sibling sportscar of the GT-R, the Nissan 370Z offers a 332 horsepower and 363 Nm of torque from its 3.7-liter VQ37 V6 engine. This can be paired to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. Further enhancing the performance are the sport-tuned shock absorbers, Nissan Sport Brakes, Limited Slip Differential, and a Carbon Fiber Composite Driveshaft.

It’s available locally in three variants with prices ranging from P 2.779 million to P 3.888 million.

Nissan Navara

Moving forward, Najima-san says the LEAF is on- track for a Philippine market launch. He has confirmed that the carmaker has several units of the LEAF as part of their real-world testing and evaluation. He says that electric vehicles present a new kind of ownership experience so it’s very important for them to understand the Filipino psyche. This will also help their marketing and sales team push the LEAF as its launch nears.

Part of the car company’s evaluation includes daily life experiences such as taking the Leaf on long drives.

“The Nissan Leaf has a range upward of 240 kilometers on a single charge,” says Najima-san. “However, we have to carefully evaluate how factors like weather and traffic can affect it. Based on personal experience, I was able to drive it from Makati to Cavite and back to Nissan’s office in Bonifacio Global City with charge still remaining.”

The trip, according on Google Maps is roughly 70 kilometers round trip.

Nissan 370Z

Apart from range, Nissan also has to determine how the LEAF’s key features such as the e-Pedal will work in the local setting. The e-Pedal allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate, and stop using only the accelerator pedal. Lifting off the accelerator mimics stepping on the brake pedal, allowing the vehicle to slow down and even come to a complete stop without having to engage the brake pedal.

Nissan has yet to finalize the LEAF’s pricing. Najima-san says it’ll all boil down to whether the government can pass the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act.

The bill seeks to provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for electric vehicles, specifically with regards to its importation, utilization, and manufacture. Among the possible benefits include a nine-year exemption from value-added tax, customs duties, and discounts on the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge as well as expedited registration procedures for EV users.

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