IT used to be that Nissan is represented in the Philippines by two companies, each of which sells (and, at certain times, assembles) either passenger cars or commercial vehicles through the brand’s dealership network. Now, following an announcement made late last year, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan has formalized the merger of the two Nissan distributors in the country under one company—Nissan Phils. Inc. (NPI).
Under the new setup, NPI will serve as the national sales company and the local arm for the Japanese carmaker. For their part, the two formerly independent companies, Nissan Motor Phils. Inc. (NMPI) and Universal Motors Corp. (UMC), will continue to assemble the Nissan Almera subcompact and certain commercial vehicles.
“Our investment in the combined NMPI and UMC companies is on sales and marketing first, followed by people and products next, with no plans for assembly yet,” NPI President and Managing Director Kenji Naito last week said during NPI’s formal announcement of the Nissan merger.
Signifying the importance of the merger is that Nissan Motor Co. Vice Chairman Toshiyuki Shiga and Executive Vice President Takao Katagiri attended the announcement program. In a news conference that followed, Katagiri said the Asean and Philippines play key roles in Nissan’s global plans.
“Our view in Asean is long term. Presently our target is a 15-percent share of the market. Even with mixed results in some countries, we are optimistic and do not see any reason to change our target,” Katagiri said.
“The Philippines is the next engine of growth in Asean,” he added.
Naito bared that Nissan’s present 2-percent share in the Philippines is “not acceptable.” He said NPI aims for a two-digit share of the local market without specifying a time frame.
Based on figures of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers in the Philippines Inc. NMPI in January accounted for less than 1 percent of the market, placing 10th in overall sales, while UMC took a 3.2-percent slice, ending in seventh spot. In 2013 NMPI placed 10th with a 1.05-percent share while UMC ended sixth with a 3.3-percent share.
A part of Nissan’s growth program rests on the brand’s sales network, and Naito said NPI intends to use all 29 existing dealerships, with plans to expand the number.
According to Katagiri, another key are new products that are packed with “technology that are meant to make our customers happy.”
Underscoring NPI’s thrust is the launch of two new models—the Nissan Sylphy and Altima, with the latter marking a return to the Philippines after around two decades of absence. According to NPI General Manager for Sales Lee Junia, the introduction of the two models signals the start of more Nissans to arrive locally.
The Sylphy, an alternative name for Sentra, is sold in the US, Japan, China and Thailand, among numerous countries, as one of Nissan’s global core models. It is available in the Philippines with either a 1.8-liter or a 1.6-liter engine that can be matched with Nissan’s new-generation Xtronic continuously variable transmission or a five-speed manual gearbox.
The car’s exterior features include Xenon headlights with LED accents and 17-inch or and 16-inch alloy wheels. In the cabin, the top variants have automatic dual-zone climate control with vents in the rear, leather seats and touch-screen audio, among others.
NPI is offering the Sylphy in Aspen White, Ebony, Deep Iris Gray, Brilliant Silver and Grayish Bronze colors. Introductory prices are set at P812,000 for the base 1.6L MT; P915,000 for the 1.6L Upper CVT; and P998,000 for the 1.8L Upper CVT.
The Altima is Nissan’s midsize executive sedan and is presently NPI’s flagship sedan model. Built at Nissan’s facilities in the US, the car arrives in the Philippines in two variants—the 2.5L SV and the 3.5L SL.
The 2.5L SV is powered by Nissan’s QR25DE four-cylinder engine that’s made from aluminum and which has a 2.5-liter displacement. It has variable valve timing and Nissan’s Electronic Concentrated Control System (ECCS).
The 3.5L SL has a VQ35DE engine under its hood. Also made from aluminum, the 3.5-liter, V6 engine also has ECCS and variable valve timing. Like the 2.5-liter engine, it can be matched to the Xtronic CVT.
Unique to the new Altima is its Vehicle Dynamic Control with active understeer control—Nissan’s advanced electronic driving aid that minimizes a car’s tendency to plow straight on in corners during dynamic driving and emergency maneuvers. The 3.5L SL adds leather seats, premium interior finishes, automatic dual-zone climate control and Bose audio.
NPI offers the Altima in Brilliant Silver, Black Obsidian, Pearl White and Storm Blue. The car sells for P1.650 million in 2.5L SV and P2.030 million in 3.5L SL.
Both the Sylphy and Altima are seen to solidify the Nissan brand in the Philippines, which Junia said encountered problems in creating a strong enough image in the market because it had two companies working independently of each other.
“This is what NPI brings to the table—one direction,” Junia said.
WITH A REPORT FROM RUBEN D. MANAHAN 4TH