Fleet News

Nissan gets serious with aggressive LCV strategy

NISSAN has always been a fringe player in Britain's light van market - but things are about to change, according to new national LCV fleet sales manager Nick Andrews.

Just two months into his new role, Andrews is predicting that Nissan's market share of the sub 3.5-tonne sector will jump from 2% at present to 3.5% by the end of 2004.

The bold mission statement is backed up by two factors - Nissan's fresh van line-up to be rolled out over the next 18 months, courtesy of the company's alliance with Renault, and a huge investment in a new network of specialised dealers.

Andrews is in the process of setting up a specialist LCV division within Nissan with a team of six people who will concentrate on sales to fleets of 25 vehicles and more. Smaller fleets and single business users will be serviced by sales staff at the specialist dealers.

Andrews told Fleet News: 'Our target is simply everybody. It is a huge challenge but we won't close the door on any business opportunity.'

Looking at the new dealer network, Nissan is aiming to have 60 van centres operational eventually and already 53 have been appointed. The sites will be called Nissan Business Centres, and to qualify dealers must adhere to strict criteria.

A full range of demonstrators must be available for customers to test out, courtesy vehicles must be available while servicing and repairs are carried out, and the sites must open for longer hours than the norm.

Nissan is also planning a fleet website where customers can build up vans to their own specifications and check on prices and availability.

On wholelife costs, Andrews is predicting success for the new Interstar as, he said, CAP Monitor - the industry's residual value guide - was placing it above its sister van the Vauxhall Movano, mainly on the strength of the new dealer network. He said: 'We will be competitive but flexible. We will take each opportunity as it comes.'

Nissan's LCV brand manager Andrew Limbert said although the Nissan van range was known in the niche sector - for example, Cabstar has been selling well for years - the manufacturer did not have a whole range to offer fleets and at present was only active in 30% of the available market. The launches over the next 18 months are set to change all that.

Cabstar has already been upgraded with a more powerful engine and cosmetic changes, Terrano II has been facelifted, a new 4x2 pick-up will be launched at £10,935 ex-VAT for buyers who need a rugged vehicle but don't require off-road capability, and a new kingcab version is on the cards costing £14,835 ex-VAT. This will feature a long load bed and two doors with occasional seating at the rear.

The Interstar - a rebadged Renault Master/Vauxhall Movano - went on sale last month, finally giving Nissan a toehold in Ford Transit territory.

Limbert said: 'This is an excellent product which is top of the class in engine technology and refinement. We have never competed in this sector before and we are relishing the challenge.'

Interstar is offered in three wheelbases, three gross vehicle weights (2.8, 3.3 and 3.5 tonnes) and with three engines, all common rail diesels (1.9 dCi 80bhp, 2.2 dCi 90bhp and 2.5 dCi 115bhp).

Nissan has chosen a unique selling point for the Interstar by adding a reversing sensor as standard on all models, a piece of kit which would normally cost about £300. However, rather disappointingly, a driver's airbag is still a paid-for option, similar to all other panel vans.

In October, the Primastar will be launched. This van is a rebadged Renault Trafic/ Vauxhall Vivaro light van and will hail from the IBC plant at Luton, while left-hand drive versions will be built in Barcelona.

Limbert said: 'This van will replace the old Nissan Vanette Cargo. As it has already been voted International Van of the Year, we should be in a strong position.' Finally in autumn next year, Nissan will launch a rebadged Renault Kangoo car-derived van, although a name has not yet been chosen.

With many other van manufacturers also renewing their focus on the van market, the future looks an interesting one for fleet buyers, who will no doubt be swamped with special offers as the makers battle it out for business.

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