Nissan has been underperforming in India for the last five years; according to new boss Takashi Hata, chairman for Africa, Middle East and India. Whereas Honda has recently found its mojo and Toyota is steadily inching forward, Nissan needs to sharpen its saw. Recruited for the job by none other than company CEO Carlos Ghosn, Hata had been heading Nissan’s own automatic gearbox maker Jatco in Japan.
The greater focus on India will mean many things. The first step Hata took was to terminate the distribution agreement with Hover. He says he is looking to take the number of dealers upto 200 in the next few years and that there will be a huge correction in how the dealers function, so we can safely expect levels of Japanese service and support in the future. "This is THE market we have to revitalise," says Hata, reflecting the importance India commands in the boardroom at Nissan's global headquarters.
While the last couple of launches, the Nissan Terrano and the Datsun Go, have been successful, Hata is also keen to get the rest of the portfolio moving. “We want to be major league players, and right now we are not”. The first ‘correction’ will come in the shape of the facelifted and slightly repositioned Sunny. Better to look at, loaded with more features and priced more competitively, Nissan will widen the appeal of this one-time successful model.
Future products, Hata said, will also come with a greater India focus. Nissan is looking at getting more SUVs to India, we clearly like them here, it will use its local engineering team to customise its cars more here and Hata says he is looking at 10 percent of the market in the future. It won’t be easy, Nissan has just moved up from 1.2 to three percent recently. "We may be late, but I believe we are not too late," says an optimistic Hata.