Wright has already shared his thoughts about the structure of the dealer network as Nissan becomes more popular in the UK – but was happy to explore other subjects too.
Insider editor James Baggott took the chance to ask him a few questions.
Could you tell us a little bit about Invitation and what that’s going to mean to the Nissan network as we go forward?
It arrives in the second half of next year. It will be able to compete right in the heart of B segment, so to be very explicit, against Fiesta.
It will give us something that’s new in comparison to what we have today and something that’s also very fresh-looking. It will give the dealers a different customer base.
What sort of numbers do you expect for it?
North of 15,000 is a reasonable expectation. If the car takes off then it’s simply a question of how many the company will allocate the GB market.
The issue with cars that are coming out of Sunderland at the moment is our ability to get capacity. In Europe this year we’ll sell 700,000 cars – 70,000 more cars than the previous year. Next year the volume will probably be the same although we expect our European target to be down a bit.
Sunderland is at maximum capacity. My job involves making sure we get the right amount of supply. We could sell more cars than we have, particularly Qashqai. If Invitation is a success, which I think it will be, then we’re probably going to be in the same position again.
It must be a little bit frustrating both for yourself and the dealers if you can sell more cars than you can get hold of?
It’s part of my job to make sure that NMGB’s voice is heard and I’m using every lever at my disposal to try to make sure that we are getting the allocation we can sell.
Another part of our job is to make sure that the dealers are not relying on one car.
One of the problems Nissan historically had was that dealers were very good at selling the latest thing, and the manufacturer was very good at promoting the latest thing. We need to make sure that our orientation is not just Qashqai.
We’ve heard some talk about Juke rivals from other manufacturer MDs. That’s a compliment to you! How will you continue the success of Juke when there are rivals planning similar models?
We created the crossover segment. We were first with Qashqai, first with Juke, and we’ve got something else [Hi-Cross concept] bigger than Qashqai.
I think Qashqai has really done a lot in terms of establishing our credibility as a franchise. We’ve had a lot of prospective dealers knocking on our door; a lot of fleet customers knocking on our door that we never used to have, as well as a lot of customers saying, ‘we’d like to buy this car.’
The car industry is competitive by its nature. It never gets any easier, so it’s important to show that you are innovative, and that you are constantly making sure that you’ve got something that’s fresh and something that’s different.
The difference between Nissan today and Nissan five years ago is that we are first in some of these markets and I think the consumer is recognising that.
What are your hopes for the Nismo brand in the UK?
It’s something that can support the overall brand image. Our job is to educate the customers who don’t know what Nismo is or what Nismo stands for. I think Nismo today is a bit of a car geek thing. If you’re into cars you know what Nismo is.
The job of Juke Nismo car is to start educating the retail public at large as to what Nismo’s about.
Sunderland’s now running at full capacity, is there scope for another plant in the UK?
I think the fact that Invitation is going to be built in Sunderland is an illustration of the confidence that the company has in NMUK. It’s the biggest car plant in the country now with three shifts a day, six days a week, and they’re working really really hard.
Do you think Nissan shouts about it enough? Do the customers know about the success of the Sunderland plant?
When I was with NMGB before, we were building Primeras and Micras. At that point customers didn’t really care so much. I think maybe Qashqai has changed that.
We do actually shout about it quite a bit – we created a lot of noise over the millionth Qashqai. We’re going to start building LEAF and we’ve created a lot of noise over that as well.