The UAE’s automotive sector recorded its best performance ever in 2008 , when unit sales surged past 350,000 units and some of the individual carmakers recorded all-time volume highs. Conventional wisdom since then was that it would be extremely difficult for the industry — and its many players — to do a repeat performance.
Nissan, however, doesn’t seem to believe in preconceived notions. In the UAE, it sold more than 60,000 units in the 12 months ended March 31 — this compares with the 50,000 units sold a year before. More to the point, it is more than 7,500 units over its 2008 tally.
“That was a historic high and that’s been bettered now,” said Samir Chefran, regional managing director at Nissan. “The best part is that around 70 per cent of our regional sales are coming from those models which were renewed in the last two years, such as the Patrol and Pathfinder as well as the Sunny and Altima.
“The bulk of our volumes are coming from a third of our line-up; going forward it will be our intention to create a more compact line-up.”
Nissan’s marketshare in the UAE is estimated at just over 16 per cent compared with 15.1 per cent a year earlier.
Saudi Arabia is another regional market where Nissan has been turning up the volumes , helped in no small measure by having a second dealership since October.
In the six months since, new units sold have been 25,000 for a 3.7 per cent share. In the last three months, the Japanese marque has laid claim to the No 3 spot — in volumes shifted — in the kingdom. Doubling the current tally is seen as a doable, according to Chefran.
“But the GCC auto market looks like it will be growing at a slower pace this year, we estimate it at around 4 per cent,” the official added.
For Japanese makers, the yen’s current softness against the dollar has been a boon. Chefran agrees it has been the case to an extent — “The favourable foreign exchange only applies to those models which are shipped in direct from Japan; our current line-up includes models built at plants outside of Japan as well.
“Whatever be the exchange rate, we have to set our prices in the context of the marketplace. What that means is there will be no dumping on prices to gain volumes. The price positioning has to be based on what’s good in the market and we have never veered from that.”