With a bulging order book and a host of new models on the way, wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER spends a day with the new Qashqai and the rest of the Nissan range at Silverstone.
THE last couple of years have been tough for businesses everywhere and the motor industry has endured its fair share of pain.
Manufacturers’ product launches have been notable by their absence in recent months as companies have pulled in their horns to weather the economic storm.
It seems things are finally beginning to pick up a bit, and it was great to see Nissan put on a huge event at Silverstone, primarily to launch its facelifted Qashqai model, but also to remind the country’s motoring press of the rest of the carmaker’s product range, which includes everything from city cars to commercial vehicles and even forklift trucks.
The event was launched by Paul Wilcox, the managing director of Nissan UK, to an impressive turn-out of journalists from all types of media across Britain, and he had a good story to tell.
While acknowledging it’s been a very tough market, Nissan has managed to increase its market share by 1%, which is no mean feat in motor industry terms, and all the more impressive when you consider that the company has achieved that mostly through retail sales, not business sales.
That growth isn’t all down to the Scrappage Scheme either, although it has helped. Hyundai has boosted its sales by 80% thanks to Scrappage, Kia 60% and Nissan by 31%, which has put the company into the top 10 carmakers in the UK, up from 12th in 2007/8, and is now holding eighth place.
Strip out the Scrappage Scheme sales though, and the news is even better – Nissan is now the fastest growing brand in the UK. Its new Pixo model has helped, but the Qashqai has given the company its biggest boost, having proved very popular with customers, aided and abetted by the Note, the funky new Cube, X-Trail, the sporting 370Z and stunning GT-R, so in the last year, Nissan has introduced a new model every quarter.
There are more to come too. The new and improved Qashqai is in the showrooms now, and the fantastic-looking new Juke, which will be launched in October this year and aimed at the sporty, younger market, had been brought over from the Geneva Motor Show for us to see and didn’t arrive until 2am that morning.
Designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK, it will be built at the company’s Sunderland plant which has just added a third shift, with the production of the Micra being moved to India.
Another important announcement came with the news that Nissan is to build its new electric car, the Nissan Leaf, in Sunderland. Production will begin in 2013 and forms part of a £420-million investment in electric cars by the Japanese firm.
The manufacturer said the Leaf would be the world’s first affordable mass-produced zero emission car and around 50,000 a year will role off the Sunderland production line.
That’s for the future, but what of the new Qashqai. The current model has enjoyed strong residual values and this is something that is set to continue with the upgraded model, thanks to improvements in the car’s perceived quality, better ride and drive, and more internal storage.
The new Qashqai has a completely new front end which includes lights, bumpers bonnet, wings and 12 LED tail lights and new 16 and 17in alloys, plus two new colours – red and grey.
The interior detailing has been smartened up too, and new instrumentation completes the car’s new look.
Nissan is also aiming to attract more company buyers with a tax friendly version with just 129g/km C02 emissions, which, from April 1, will qualify for zero VED, which should tempt fleet buyers.
And electronic stability programme is now standard across the range and a Bose sound system is fitted to the top of the range model, with prices starting from £16,995.
If you want more evidence of the Qashqai’s popularity, you only have to look at the order book. The company says 11,000 people have already ordered one of the new cars before it officially went on sale.
Nissan then, seems to be in a good place. With a strong order book and some very exciting new models on the way, the company seems to be on a solid footing for the future, which is good news not only for Nissan, but also the British economy, particularly in the North East.