TODAY Nissan Insider chats to Steve McLennan, Nissan GB Marketing Director.
When Nissan announced that 2011 had been a record-breaking year at its Sunderland plant, no-one was more delighted than Steve… and he is firmly of the opinion that the the company could make more of the fact that so much of its output is ‘made in Britain’.
Steve has chatted to us before… and again spared us a few moments to answer some questions.
Nissan got 2012 off to a great start by revealing a record-breaking year at its Sunderland plant, would you agree?
Absolutely. The achievement of NMUK in dominating automotive production in the UK is quite staggering. The volume of NMUK production at 480,000 is mind-blowing. But it is not just the volume but the quality that is impressive. Take Qashqai for example which is not only the best-selling new crossover in the UK but was judged before Christmas to be the best used car on Britain’s roads by both What Car and CAP for the second year running.
The outstanding sales success of new Juke in the UK and across Europe also contributed strongly to the numbers. Let’s not forget Note. The UK accounts for one in three of all Notes sold across Europe
What do you think are the secrets of the plant’s success?
Incredible efficiency at NMUK in a global production landscape means that our UK plant continues to receive major investment to manufacture class-leading product such as Qashqai, Juke and, going forward, new Note and LEAF.
All the management and employees at NMUK have continually demonstrated a ‘can do’ culture that defeats economic headwinds. Our plant is recognised as the most efficient and effective production location in Europe. The culture and energy impress everyone who visits.
Do you think dealers and car buyers are actually fully aware of the extent of Nissan’s dominance when it comes to car manufacturing in the UK?
Generally I think the answer is no. Obviously we celebrate achievements such as this within press releases etc. but we have more work to do for dealer staff and customers to fully appreciate the scale of Nissan and the importance of its achievements in the UK. The headline fact that of all passenger cars produced in the UK, one in three is a Nissan, is truly impressive and certainly surprising to the wider consumer audience.
Do you think dealers can use Nissan’s ‘made in Britain’ angle to their advantage?
For many prospects and customers it is an important additional consideration. We cannot claim it to be the deciding factor as otherwise Rover, MG etc would have survived as British brands and businesses. What we do know is that over 70 per cent of buyers are interested in where their car was produced.
The sentiment of consumers is also changing within tough economic times. We are all becoming tired of hearing that Great Britain PLC no longer produces anything and our traditional industries are in terminal decline. Car production bucks this perception and Nissan is the leading light and number one contributor.
Consumers are motivated by home-grown success stories and so will appreciate being able to tell peers and friends that their new Nissan was indeed built in the UK by the number one manufacturer
Practically, within the sales product demonstration process, all Nissan sales execs should be familiar with the headline statistics (below) and be proud to tell sales prospects and existing customers that their Note, Juke & Qashqai is indeed part of a huge British success story:
- Nissan manufactured 484,000 cars in their Sunderland plant last year in Europe’s most efficient production facility.
- Nissan makes one in three of all cars produced in the UK… Nissan are by far and away the biggest UK-based manufacturer.
- Eighty-five per cent of all Nissans built in the UK are exported to Europe and the rest of the world.
Do you think the company can look forward with confidence to 2012?
We should remain optimistic whilst at the same time redoubling our efforts to impress potential customers and retain existing ones. The market in a severe economic climate will remain tough and super-competitive. Our optimism stems from our core proposition that Nissan produces a range of high-quality, innovative products that deliver excellent value for money.
Juke is going into its second full year and has not reached its peak whilst Qashqai is benefiting from recent improvements such as the class-leading 1.6Dci (119g) and the introduction of a highly efficient 1.6 CVT transmission. The Nissan network continues to make progress with its level of customer service and the demonstration of genuine value will be key for Nissan to fulfil its potential in 2012.
With EV battery production starting this year and LEAF manufacturing commencing in 2013, what are your thoughts on the prospects for electric motoring?
We are yet to scratch the surface regarding the potential for EVs. The consumer is still at base camp in understanding the capability and benefits of the technology in comparison to the internal combustion engine.
There are many myths and incorrect perceptions to overcome through a sustained regime of communications. Nissan alone will not make this market. To accelerate the development of the consumer, we actually do need the competition. With Renault , Vauxhall and Ford joining the EV market, the combined marketing effort will educate consumers as to how good the technology is.
The market sector will move from niche (interesting but not relevant) to major (these are a real alternative to ICEs). The consumer then decides what is the best product and for 100 per cent EV, that product is LEAF.
Manufacturers have invested billions of euros in low and zero-emission technology. The future is most definitely electric but it will take the next three years for the technology to realise its potential.