Nissan Micra sales hit by the absence of diesel engines, production switch

Article by Christian Andrei, on October 9, 2011

Sales of Nissan’s top-seller in Europe, the Micra subcompact, have been affected by its move to launch the model without a diesel powertrain and to produce the car in India. Market researcher JATO Dynamics said that in the first half, sales in Europe of the new Micra dropped by 9.5%.

Nissan’s No.1-seller car is now the Quashqai, with a 7% increase in sales in the first half. Nissan launched the Micra in Europe late last year. 2011 is expected to be a good year for hatchback sales because typically, a product line receives a huge boost in the first full year of being available on the market.

Carlos Da Silva, an analyst for IHS Automotive, said that the Micra's high-efficient gasoline engine has low CO2 emissions that are comparable to that of diesel engines, according to Autonews.

However, this is not what potential buyers prefer in Europe. He said that European markets have become very biased toward diesel and that the move to offer a [gasoline-only version] now seems “too risky.”

Another issue is the car’s quality since it’s built in India. Da Silva said that the car is cheaper to assemble in this “so-called low-cost country” but then, “it also feels cheaper."

Nevertheless, Nissan officials have shown their satisfaction with the car’s performance. Pierre Loing, Nissan Europe's head of product strategy and planning, said that the car's European sales are within expectations.

After the 2007 arrival of the Qashqai medium crossover, the Micra was edged off its No. 1 spot. Another vehicle that has surpassed the Micra in terms of sales is Nissan's Juke small crossover.

Designed and created to cater to a wide range of customers, the new Nissan Micra will be marketed in about 160 countries around the world, including China, France and Japan. Koji Nagano, Design Director for the Nissan brand, quipped that their first challenge was on how the new Micra could target a very broad spectrum of customers around the world, being able to satisfy several needs in one package.

He said that the second challenge was to design a compact car that leads its class in terms of overall quality, since Nissan customers expect the best. He added that they should be able to achieve this quality goal while hurdling the third challenge, which is to create a compact car with a special touch of design flair. Interestingly, the new Micra remains to be a true city car and is virtually as large -- or as compact – as its predecessor.

Overall, new Nissan Micra is a bit longer, wider and lower than the outgoing model. On the other hand, its rivals from a decade-and-a-half ago have grown larger, competing in a sub-segment higher. One of the defining elements of the new Micra is its profile, especially with regards to its arched side window graphic.

This arched side window graphic – an element well loved and admired both in Japan and Europe – is now accentuated by a prominent rear spoiler that has been integrated into the roof. Overall, the new Nissan Micra features a shape – with a strong rounded waistline and characteristic crease above the sills – that is bolder than the outgoing model. In addition, the front and rear treatments, are also different.

Despite this new design, the new Nissan Micra still features an all-round visibility, a factor that contributes a lot to stress-free city driving. The driver’s seat offers a commanding and ideal view of the road ahead, allowing the pilot to maneuver perfectly even in tight spaces.

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