ON TARGET: HEADING FOR THE TOP
Key Highlights in 2011:
GENEVA, Switzerland (6 March 2012) 2011 will be remembered in Nissan as the year the company showed its fighting spirit, overcoming unprecedented challenges to deliver record sales and expand its business across the world.
In a year that included the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Thailand floods as well as an historically strong Yen and continuing global economic uncertainty - Nissan sold a record 4.67 million vehicles in 2011, 14.4 per cent up on 2010.
Nissan also posted double-digit growth in three of its four main regions and remains on track to achieve the goals in its demanding Nissan Power 88 mid-term plan (NP88) - a sustainable 8 per cent operating margin and an 8 per cent share of the global market by 2016.
Much of this success can be attributed to Nissan's commitment to make good on its promise to bring a raft of innovative, exciting and relevant models featuring practical, user-friendly technology to increasing numbers of customers worldwide.
In fact, Nissan will launch an average of one all-new model every six weeks through to 2016, and 15 new technologies for each year of NP88.
The success of this product-led business expansion, supported by increasing levels of localized production, is already evident with overseas sales and production volume both hitting all-time highs in 2011.
The company's biggest market last year was China where the Sunny and Teana sedans helped Nissan post a record sales figure of 1.25 million units, a rise of almost 22 per cent over 2010. Further expansion will be supported by Nissan's second manufacturing plant in Huadu - alongside Chinese partner Dongfeng - taking local capacity up to 1.2 million units.
Significant investment is also continuing in the Americas where plans have been announced for a new plant in Resende near Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In addition a new plant in Aguascalientes will increase Nissan's presence in Mexico next year, paving the way for more than one million locally-produced vehicles in the mid-term.
And in India, where Nissan sales are improving month by month, the Alliance plant in Oragadam, Chennai will double its production capacity to 400,000 units and later this year launch its third locally-built model - the Evalia seven-seat urban vehicle - alongside Sunny and Micra.
But as well as an increasing presence in the fast-growing emerging markets of China, Brazil and India - Nissan also enjoyed success in its mature markets. In Japan the company moved quickly and decisively to limit the impact of the March 11 earthquake, and the US achieved record calendar year sales and market share of 8.2 per cent.
Expansion was not restricted to Nissan, however. Together with partners Renault and AvtoVAZ Lada, the Renault-Nissan Alliance increased sales by more than 10 per cent in 2011 to pass 8 million units for the first time and strengthen its position as one of the largest
automotive groups in the world.
And records also tumbled in Europe where Nissan was the fastest growing car brand in 2011 after posting a 25 per cent year-on-year increase in sales over 2010 in a market that rose by just 4 per cent. In total Nissan sold 695,702 vehicles in Europe last year, 140,000 units up on 2010.
This gave the company its best-ever annual market share penetration in Europe of 3.7 per cent, with every month of the year showing sales higher than in the same month of 2010: and in September, Nissan claimed its highest ever monthly market share in the region of 4.2 per cent.
Paul Willcox, Nissan's Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing in Europe, said: "It was here in Geneva last year that we outlined our plans to establish Nissan as the top-performing Asian brand in Europe. If there was anyone who doubted our resolve this time last year, hopefully we are beginning to change their minds.
"2011 was a very difficult year, particularly for Japanese automakers. But by working closely with all our stakeholders including our suppliers and dealer network throughout Europe, Nissan has never been in a stronger position within the region than we are today.
"We've done this by placing the customer at the very heart of our thinking - what vehicles do people want and need today? What levels of support and service should our retail network provide? How can we introduce more flexibility and responsiveness into all areas of our business to give people more choice?...these are the kind of questions that have been driving our business agenda and will continue to do so."
Last year Nissan grew in nearly every European market. In Russia, Nissan sales rose an incredible 75 per cent (an extra 60,000 units) to give the company 5.5 per cent of the overall market, while substantial increases were also seen in the UK (up 11 per cent); France (up 31 per cent); Germany (up 18 per cent) and Italy (up 16 per cent).
But success in Europe wasn't only restricted to sales. The company's manufacturing plant at Sunderland in the UK built a record 480,485 units in its 25th anniversary year. Such was the demand for Sunderland-built models - Qashqai, Qashqai+2, Note and Juke - that the plant was operating around the clock all year.
The two Qashqai models proved to be the top sellers, clocking up more than 250,000 sales during the year between them, while Juke sold more than 123,000 units in its first full year of production. Other notable sales successes came from Micra, now built in India, which contributed more than 75,000 sales to the total and X-Trail which tripled its 2010 sales to 33,000 units.
Nissan's other plants in Spain and Russia also saw big increases in volume to cope with demand. The Navara pickup and NV200 van (produced in Barcelona) both saw significant increases in sales, while the company's newest European plant in St Petersburg, Russia introduced a third shift in May to start production of Murano, where it joined Teana and X-Trail.
"A crucial factor in our success in Europe is undoubtedly because many of our models on sale here today are also designed, engineered and built here. Overall around 80 per cent of the models we sell in the region are produced in Europe which ensures not only are our products fully in tune with the quality, style and performance expectations of our customers, but we can also react very quickly to changes in market demands and conditions," said Willcox.
To maintain its momentum in Europe in 2012, Nissan will continue putting its customers first. Expansion of the dealer network is a central theme, but this will be matched by improving the dealer experience and delivering the best quality service. A European-wide programme - ‘Brilliant at the Basics' - is being implemented to ensure that every Nissan dealer, no matter how big or small, offers class leading levels of customer service.
The company is also increasing its presence in the fleet and LCV sectors as well as developing further what is one of the broadest product line-ups on the market with a number of new models planned for the end of 2012 and into 2013.
"Perhaps more than any other automaker at the moment, Nissan is a brand that is ready and willing to innovate and challenge accepted thinking. One clear example is in the crossover segment. We pioneered this market sector and still lead it today with more than 380,000 crossover sales in Europe alone last year.
"We also lead the Electric Vehicle segment. The Nissan LEAF is the most popular vehicle of its type in the industry with global cumulative sales now topping 22,000. No other manufacturer is as engaged in the comprehensive range of activities needed to advance the entire system of EV zero emission transport."
And there is more to come. Looking ahead excitement is guaranteed in Europe later this year by the first Nismo-developed mainstream product - Nissan Juke Nismo - while the INVITATION concept, being given its world premiere at Geneva, heralds a new and dynamic contender in the mainstream B-segment alongside Micra and Juke in 2013.
Nissan's leadership in the zero emissions segment will be further bolstered by the forthcoming production version of the all-electric e-NV200 van and passenger vehicle. While local production of the 2011 World, European and Japanese Car of the Year, Nissan LEAF will begin in Sunderland in early 2013.
"This is not a flash in the pan," says Willcox. "This is just the first phase of a carefully planned, long-term industrial strategy that will see Nissan become established as the top performing Asian brand in the market.
"There is no doubt that 2012 will be a challenging year for everyone in Europe, but we are well positioned to maintain our momentum ahead of 2013 when we have a number of significant new models due for launch.
"Cars like Nissan LEAF, Qashqai and Juke have all shown that we have lit a fuse by offering daring products infused with ‘Innovation and Excitement for Everyone'. Our vehicles are different in the best sense of the word, and the growing number of customers buying our cars - many for the first time - proves that Nissan is a brand on the move."