In the late 1990’s, Nissan was Europe’s best selling Asian car brand thanks to the Micra, Almera and Primera, which were the epitome of Japanese cars in that period: not very exciting, but extremely reliable. But in the early 2000’s, they tried to bring more frivolous design into their cars with the 2002 Micra K12 and 2002 Primera P12, and as a result, the once faithful customers looking for anonymous transportation stayed away. At the same time, the newly formed alliance with Renault caused the Japanese engineers to lose their focus on bulletproof reliability, and Nissan’s sales dropped from almost 440.000 units in 1998 to just over 300.000 in 2007. Contrastingly, Toyota was growing fast, and it has held the title of biggest Asian brand in Europe since 2000, even more than doubling Nissan’s sales between 2004 and 2008.
As Nissan realized that they could no longer be competitive in the regular compact hatchback and midsized sedan and station wagon segments with the Almera and Primera, they made a very risky but brave decision: abandon Europe’s second and third largest segments with combined annual volumes of 4.3 million units in 2006 (5.9 million including premium brands) in favor of relatively small, but fast-growing niche segments. [Read more…]