Nissan all set for Kicks to start new growth in India
The Japanese auto major has revealed new marketing strategy for fiercely competitive market

Nissan, the Japanese car giant, looks to kickstart growth trajectory in India, the world’s fifth largest and Asia’s third biggest car market, along with a slew of strategic moves to gain market share.

The company said its much talked about new Nissan Kicks sports utility vehicle (SUV) will be the first of a number of new products Nissan plans to launch in India to give its rivals a run for their money.

Maruti Suzuki, the car market leader, which sells one out of two cars bought in India, Hyundai, the second largest car maker, dominate the 3.2 million car market in the country, followed by Mahindra, Tata Motors, Honda, among others.

In a bid to re-energise its fortunes in India, Nissan’s new growth strategy include new product launches, strengthening the Nissan and Datsun brands, expand its dealership network, optimise flexible manufacturing and strengthen R&D facilities together with its Alliance partners in the country.

At present, Nissan sells a range of cars in India including Nissan Micra hatchback, Nissan Sunny sedan, Nissan Terrano SUV, Nissan GT-R Coupe.

In FY2018, sales at Nissan Motor India fell 7.86 per cent to 52,796 units in the domestic market and even its exports dropped 38 per cent to 67,829 units.

This is surely not a good going for the Japanese brand in a country which is speedily driving towards being the world’s number three car market by volumes by 2021.

However, the company has risen to the present and future challenges, charting out a new India strategy. The carmaker aims to “bring the best of Nissan’s worldwide line-up to India, building on Nissan’s technological leadership in electrification and connected cars” and build a strong line-up for Datsun in India too.

The company said it is all set to launch its new Kicks SUV in the first quarter of 2019 for the growing but fiercely competitive car market in the country.

The Kicks SUV will be slotted above the Terrano in the company's India model line-up.

“Nissan is committed to India and has built the foundations to succeed,” Peyman Kargar, senior vice-president of Nissan Motor Co, chairman- Africa, Middle East, and India, said.

“Our strategy will strengthen both our brands Nissan and Datsun for our customers across India. The Nissan brand will bring the best of global Nissan products and technology to our customers in India, starting with the Nissan Kicks. For Datsun, we aim to offer compelling products across segments offering value, connectivity and Japanese engineering,” he pointed out.

On September 10, the company had revealed the first sketches of the India model of the all-new Nissan Kicks showcasing the evocative flow of its impressive, robust exteriors.

“With a bold, daring and dynamic design, the new Kicks stands to offer what India’s new consumer wants – agile movement on urban roads with the freedom to explore new terrains,” the company said.

Nissan Kicks’ progressive SUV exterior is engaging and provocative and the the new V-motion grille, a signature motif in Nissan’s new global design language further adds to Kicks distinctive presence, it boasted.

Interestingly Kicks design language and features are intrinsic to SUV enthusiasts in India. Also, the India version of the Kicks is bigger, more evolved, more intelligent and caters to the brand’s core audience, who are adventurous, look for bold and intelligent choices in life, the company claimed.

In India, Nissan’s tryst with the SUV began with Nissan Jonga. The iconic Nissan Jonga had been serving the Indian Army from 1965 to 1999 and went on to acquire an iconic status due to its inherent ruggedness, sheer power and all-terrain capabilities.

Decades later, Nissan still continues its spirit of relentless innovation in the SUV segment, introducing iconic nameplates like Patrol, Terra, Pathfinder, Armada, X-Trail, Terrano, Juke and Kicks across more than 100 markets.

Interestingly, since 2010, the formidable Nissan-Renault Global Alliance has invested Rs 6,100 crore in India and will continue to focus on the Indian market to further develop its engineering, research and development and manufacturing operations in the country.

This Alliance is already India’s largest automotive research and development employer through the Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre for India in Chennai. At present, the Alliance’s factory in Chennai is a global manufacturing hub exporting to 106 countries.

“In the coming years in India, we will grow and our workforce will shift towards highly skilled jobs to lead the technological changes coming to the auto industry in India,” Kargar pointed out.

“Our aim is to ensure our operations in India are best in class, and that India becomes an even more significant global hub for Nissan and the Alliance in manufacturing, engineering and research and development. Our strategy in India is to invest in talent and people,” he said.

Kargar said Nissan’s investment in the Indian market will be driven by a three-part plan focused on people, processes and product innovation:

People: This will mean optimise opportunities for transfers and advancement between manufacturing, R&D and other operations for all employees. Nissan will train the plant workforce to prepare for the increased demands of manufacturing next-generation cars; 10 per cent of employees to be trained in the first year.

It will also reinforce flexibility of manufacturing through career mobility between Alliance organisations, recruitment of people with future-technology skills and, in areas where there is a surplus of skills today, offer a voluntary option of financial support for plant employees who wish to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

Processes: Reduce complexity through greater use of common platforms as part of the Alliance 2022 goal for 9 million cars per year globally to be based on four common platforms by 2022.

Product innovations: Harness opportunities in India from Nissan's global leadership in electrification and connected cars.

Nissan will aggressively strengthen its all-India dealer network. By 2021, it plans to double its sales and service touch-points from 270 at present to be closer to its customers.

The brand will also expand regional marketing and sales operations teams to four key regions across India, while also developing the Nissan design centre in Chennai to ensure cars meet the rapidly changing expectations of Indian customers.

The company is looking to make gains with digitization too. Nissan’s first Global Digital Hub in Kerala will focus on innovations in mobility to enhance its products worldwide and in India.

It plans to hire 500 employees by the end of FY 2018 at its Global Digital Hub in Kerala, with further expansion plans.

It is also focusing on improving customer service and satisfaction, and expand access to Nissan’s products and services, through digitization and e-Commerce.

Michael Gonsalves