Nissan Motor Company of Japan is test-driving the Indian market with its sports utility vehicle 'X-Trail', which also marks the re-entry of the Japanese auto major in India. This is Nissan's second foray in the country after its former light truck venture with Hyderabad-based Allwyn in the '90s.
"Nissan is studying various options for its strategy in India but at present we are waiting to see how X-Trail performs. We are not entering the market with huge investments and huge advertising, but to understand the Indian market and consumers," according to Yasuaki Hashimoto, Vice-President, General Overseas Market, Nissan Motor Co., who looks after marketing and sales for Asia and Oceania.
Nissan has launched X-Trail in India in two variants. The base variant, Comfort, comes for approximately Rs. 20 lakh while the premium variant Elegance is priced at Rs. 22.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
So why is Nissan trying to test the Indian market with an SUV rather than a conventional passenger car? "Nissan X-Trail is the most successful SUV from the Nissan stable. It has been globally introduced in more than 180 countries. The success of X-Trail in other parts of the world encouraged Nissan to introduce it in India. The X-Trail with its unique features combines the luxury of a sedan with the ruggedness of an SUV. This makes for a stand-alone position for this model," said Unni Krishnan K., Coordinator, Nissan Sales for India, to exchange4media.
According to industry estimates, the performance of the utility vehicle (UV) market in India is likely to attract more companies to this segment. Domestic UV sales went up by 27.6 per cent to 144,981 units in 2003-04, the increased sales coming mainly from the increased sales of the Toyota Qualis and Mahindra Scorpio. The total market for hi-end utility vehicles in India is around 2,500 to 3,000 units per year.
"We are entering India with our best-selling SUV. We have plans to diversify into the passenger car and light commercial vehicle segments," Nissan Motor Senior Vice-President, Toshiyuki Shiga, had said during the launch.
"Any imported vehicle will attract prevailing levies and taxes and X-Trail being a luxury SUV does the same. We at Nissan believe that we are offering a premium product to the upmarket, discerning Indian customer. The X-Trail would be imported as completely built units from Nissan's plant in Japan and would attract a duty of 104 per cent., and sold through dealers in major cities," commented Krishnan when asked about high price tag.
During the formal launch of the X-Trail, Shiga had said the company had plans to set up an assembly plant in India. However, he did not rule out the possibility of building the units in India. "All this depends on the customer response and sales of the X-Trail," was his comment.
The X-Trail comes with a 2.2-litre common rail diesel engine and six-speed manual transmission and a four-wheel drive that can ride on any terrain. Besides X-Trail, Nissan has models such as Cube, Cube Cubic and March in the B-segment that are possible candidates for the Indian market.