January 12, 2012
Media Center interview: EVP Andy Palmer At the North American International Auto Show
Q1. What brand statement will be made with the new vehicles coming to this market?
I would say that brand for Nissan is really the final frontier.
We make great cars. We’re really experts in monozukuri, the art of engineering and making. But our big weakness has always been one of what the Japanese would call kotozukuri, the art of story-telling. And we really need to bring this art of kotozukuri at the same level as our science of monozukuri overall. So that is the challenge.
As part of that challenge we really have to understand what we stand for. What does the name Nissan evoke? And we think it should be “Innovation and Excitement For Everyone.” Nissan has always been a company of innovation. And in fact the marketing platform in the United States is “Innovation for All.” So, it’s completely consistent.
Now, we’re an innovative company, but let’s say so is Toyota. Let’s be honest, they are an innovative company as well; but neither Toyota nor Honda is exciting. So innovation and excitement means that really Nissan owns this space. We have cars that are exciting to drive, engaging to drive. But, I guess you can say that a car company like Porsche probably is innovative and exciting. But, it’s not for everyone. So this statement of innovation, excitement for everyone really defines the Nissan brand.
So these 20 cars in 24 months, I guarantee you that you will be able to see that statement of innovation and excitement for everyone. Then we have to come to the marketing platform, the communications platform, and make sure that we do that in a very consistent manner across the world and basically building on to what the U.S. team has already been doing with Innovation for All. I’m very confident that during this Power 88 period, we are really going to dramatically raise the understanding and the expectations of the brand.
Q2. Is the U.S. market still key to the company’s strategy for growth, given the expectations for development in China?
We are launching 20 cars in the next 24 months in the U.S. (and Canada); that by itself is a demonstration of how important this market is. Now, can we do better in this market? The obvious answer is yes, we must and that is the reason that we are investing in so many new products on the hypothesis that we are going to drive market share here to at or above 10% of the market. I truly believe that with the products we have coming, and the team that we have at Nissan North America, that there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t challenge 10% or more.
Q3. What is the significance of the e-NV200 that was unveiled at today’s show?
The Nissan LEAF has really rocked our industry. If I go back three or four years, everybody laughed when we talked about bringing a commercial electric car. Now, you look around the show and everybody is talking about electric cars. LEAF has already sold over 20,000 units so, I think today is really the time of electric cars, and they will continue to grow.
Now, we should not view an electric car as “the” electric car. It’s an alternative powertrain. So in the same way as we talk about diesels, or gasoline cars, or hybrid cars, or plug-in hybrid cars, we have to talk about electric cars. So it follows that there normally should be more than one car that is electric in our range. Today you see the second car, which is actually a van. It makes perfect sense if you think about it from a very low total-cost of ownership. That car, is maybe a little more expensive than a conventional van, to buy; the payback, considering government incentives, is less than three years for a normal operator. So, for business, which is very much focused on total cost of ownership, that is definitely a good alternative to consider. Then of course, the third car will be an Infiniti. And, the fourth car is a surprise.
Q4. How will the Pathfinder stand out and lead in a segment that is becoming more crowded and more competitive?
You see a trend-change in the market from let’s say crossover, more towards SUV-like, and clearly we are somewhere following that trend. But at the same time, we have been able to understand that trend and offer something that is competitive in every way, shape and form. Now we’ve obviously moved from a frame to a monocoque construction. That means that we have been able to reduce the weight of the vehicle and improve the fuel economy by about 25%. The car is bigger. Obviously from a ride-and-handling point of view, having a monocoque construction makes it a much more engaging car. We’ve been able to kit-out the interior of the car (it’s three-row) in a very elegant way so I think you are getting an awful lot of good value for money with that vehicle, when we get to announcing the price. As I look at it, I think we have the most competitive car in that particular set.