Outside Chennai, the Renault-Nissan alliance is investing Rs 4,000 crore in a 400,000 units a year plant to make its mark in India. Nissan, which will foot half the bill, is looking to take its production to 200,000 units a year and the one car that can help it get there is the Micra.
This fourth-generation hatch has been a success across the globe; but with this Micra Nissan want to take it to newer markets where entry points are lower, and which is why, for the first time, the Micra will become cheaper than the outgoing car. “We are positioning it a bit lower than the last car,” Shiro Nakamura, vice-president (design) at Nissan, had said when the car was first launched at the Geneva Motor Show. This means the car will compete with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo and Maruti Suzuki Swift in the ultra-competitive A2 Segment which last year grew by a phenomenal 27.5 per cent.
Based on the V platform, the Micra is expected to be positioned a tad under Rs 4 lakh for the base model. Nissan, which prides itself on its engineering capabilities, is expected to work the same magic on the Micra as the Nissan 370Z and GT-R sports cars. Designed and developed to be lightweight (lighter by 80 kg than its predecessor) and efficient, it will feature a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Internationally, Nissan’s focus for the Micra is on petrol, which is why it doesn’t plan to sell it with a diesel engine. Since this engine is more fuel-efficient than class benchmarks, the fuel tank capacity too is smaller. But whether Nissan will bite the bullet and offer a diesel engine in India remains to be seen.
The interiors are spacious and though they feel built to a cost, the Micra should feel just as good as industry benchmarks. The top-end variant will also feature keyless entry and start, a feature found on luxury cars where you can keep the key fob in your pocket and press a button to start the car. Its exterior design too is more youthful, which is why the company has chosen Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor to represent the brand. “We believe Kapoor with his uber cool charm and mass appeal brings in a perfect connect with our brand,” says Nissan Motors India Managing Director & CEO Kiminobu Tokuyama.
The car is expected to be offered in three trims, with prices starting as low as Rs 3.8 lakh for the basic car going all the way up to Rs 5 lakh for the top-end version. What will be challenging for Nissan is that the car is launched next month with just about a dozen dealers across the country. Initial estimates suggest that the car might be slow to take off on the sales front but gradually improve as Nissan spreads its wings across the country. After all, it has an investment outside Chennai that it needs to justify to its shareholders!