‘I want us to become a more serious player, but not to get there by mounting an attack on the market leader. We will achieve our success by exploiting our niche heritage.’ In an interview at the launch of Nissan’s extended LCV family in Spain, Murfitt said he saw no point in challenging Ford, which enjoys a commanding market position after more than 30 years as a major force in the sector.
‘But I do see opportunities for Nissan in the small to medium fleet area. I think we will be able to pick up on opportunities that tend to be ignored by our rivals, including Vauxhall and Renault, who do a lot of business with the major fleets with their versions of the Primastar van, which is produced at the General Motors plant in Luton.
‘I think we are in a position to develop the bespoke solution to a lot of operators who are looking for vehicles to be tailored to their specific requirements,’ he said. Murfitt claimed a new special vehicles operations (SVO) facility at the company would cater for customers who wanted to order specific modifications for individual applications. He said: ‘Our fleet managers used to sell cars and commercial vehicles, but we have introduced a dedicated LCV team of three regional managers headed by a national fleet manager.
‘Our next phase is to build up the size of the team and add a person with specific responsibility for special vehicles options. It will be his job to target the areas of the market that Vauxhall and Renault fail to cover – by that, I mean developing the bespoke option that should provide us with extra business opportunities.’
Murfitt said Nissan had done well to grow its share of LCV registrations to 8,843 units last year, a big improvement on the 2002 total of 5,832 that lifted market share from 2.19% to 2.91%. He said: ‘We have made good progress, but I want to build on that and go for a total of 12,500 units this year to reach 4% market share.
‘We are a second-division player at the moment, but I believe we can promote ourselves to the first division. I have no set targets to achieve over the longer term, but I’m confident our range will be well received and will win an increasing level of business in future.’ Murfitt claimed Nissan’s Pickup was recognised as the best in the segment and customer acceptance of the Interstar 2.8 to 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight range and Primastar light vans had given fresh credibility to the brand. He said: ‘I want to change the perception of Nissan in this area of activity and our demonstration fleet of more than 100 vehicles – which is a large number for a 3% player – has been put together for that purpose. ‘Our 220 dealers can make bookings for fleets, but customers can book directly from the demonstration centre, which is operated from Upper Hayford in Oxfordshire. ‘I think we have laid the foundations for steady growth and we now have the infrastructure to support it. We have a solid customer base and we believe we are small enough and sufficiently flexible to meet the needs and expectations of customers, and to compete with the big boys. ‘Despite what our competitors might claim, commercial vehicles are not standard products – they are specific to the needs of customers.’