Nissan breaks into exclusive Top 3 circle

By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Philippine Daily Inquirer March 20,2019

YTD Feb 2018

Something dramatic happened in the automotive industry last month. The composition of the exclusive circle of top 3 sales performers changed, notwithstanding the 0.6 percent growth in vehicle sales compared to February 2018 as reported by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (Campi) and the Truck Manufacturers Association, plus the 12 percent year-on-year growth posted by the Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (Avid).

Ever since March 2010, when Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (Hari) overtook third placer Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. in total sales, this exclusive circle has remained intact, topped by Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines, Inc. as no. 1 and no. 2, respectively, with Hari in third place.

Now, suddenly after nine long years, Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) is no. 3 (see chart).

A harbinger of what was to happen appeared in January this year when the full year 2018 sales reports of Campi and Avid came out, and Nissan was noted to be nipping at the heels of Hyundai for the coveted no. 3 spot .

The sales digits of NPI for 2018 were only 449 units short of Hari, since NPI scored 34,952 unit sales while Hari sold 35,401 units.

Amazing feat

NPI’s phenomenal growth was an amazing feat.

In a year when the motor vehicle industry sales plunged 16 percent compared to the previous year, NPI bucked the slump, rising to no. 4 rank with 9.1 percent market share in 2018, from no. 7 with 5.6 percent market share in 2017.

In the process, Nissan leapfrogged over Isuzu (no. 6 in 2017), Honda (no. 5), and Ford (no. 4).

Last week, the year-to-date February 2019 sales reports of Campi and Avid confirmed that NPI had finally overtaken Hari to break into the top 3 circle.

With February 2019 year-to-date sales of 6,623 vehicles, a 73.9 percent jump over the same year-ago period, NPI surpassed Hari, which sold 6,537 vehicles for a 16.2 percent increase, from the 5,624 units sold in February 2018.

However, NPI’s meager lead of only 86 units in terms of YTD sales is imperiled by the recent and future moves of Hari, whose president/CEO, Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, is known for her marketing savvy.

NPI’s sales growth in 2018 was most probably enhanced by the intro of the all-new Terra, a midsize SUV equipped with the Nissan intelligent around view monitor.

Nissan’s sales, like Toyota’s, Mitsubishi’s, Ford’s, and Isuzu’s, are boosted by its pickup truck.

In fact, the Nissan Navara was the best-selling pickup for some time last year until the Toyota Hilux regained its leadership in the segment.

Core strength

Like Honda Cars, Hari does not have a pickup truck in its lineup. Despite this disadvantage vis-a-vis Ford Motor’s hot-selling Ranger pickup, Honda replaced Ford in fifth place as it sold 4,435 vehicles as of YTD February 2019 compared to Ford’s 3,671. In the same year-ago period, Honda was no. 6 (see chart).

Going back to Hyundai, Hari’s  core strength is in passenger cars (PCs), as evidenced by the Hyundai Accent ranking no. 9 in the top 10 nameplates in 2018, and no. 2 behind the Toyota Vios in the top-selling subcompact cars of 2018.

Of the 6,537 vehicles Hari sold in the first two months of this year, 3,490—more than 50 percent—were PCs.

Small wonder that Hari is expanding its PC base. On Jan. 31, Hari put out a two-page full color center spread in major newspapers advertising the Reina subcompact car, made in China, and affordably priced due to the inclusion of the Philippines in the Asean-China Free Trade Agreement.

Some industry observers interpreted the sudden appearance of the Hyundai Reina as Hari’s strategy to pre-empt Kia Philippines, formerly under Columbian Autocar Corp., which had been acquired by the Ayala Group and whose first new offering was the made-in-China Kia Soluto subcompact car powered by the same 1.4-liter gasoline engine and similarly priced below P1-million.

Whatever purpose the Reina was supposed to serve, Hari sold an amazing 827 units of the Reina after it was released in the market in February, making it the best-selling Hyundai PC nameplate after the refreshed Accent (2,445 units sold YTD Feb 2019).

Agudo says she may add three more Hyundai models to the lineup this year, sourced from Hyundai’s factory in China, like the Reina.

Also in the Hari pipeline is the Palisade, a midsize, seven-passenger crossover SUV which debuted at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show last November.

Future mobility

But NPI is not just standing by while Hari projects itself as one of the country’s leading and fastest growing automotive companies.

NPI, aiming to be the first  in the Philippines with the latest in future mobility technology, announced last week that it will introduce the Nissan Leaf in 2020.

The Leaf is the world’s first mass-market electric car that has sold over 400,000 units worldwide since its launch in 2010, making Nissan the global leader in electric vehicles (EVs.)

The semi-autonomous Leaf EV, which produces zero emissions, is poised to outshine the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, which Hari began selling this year at a price lower than the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Will the entry of the Nissan Leaf prompt Hari to bring in the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, which has been rated as the most fuelefficient electric car, never mind the absence of infrastructure for electric passenger cars in this country?

Bottom line, the auto industry’s sales performance this year may remain flat, but the keen rivalry between Nissan and Hyundai gives us something exciting to look forward to—aside from benefiting car buyers in terms of a wider range of choices at more affordable prices.

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