Nissan and its alliance partner Renault have been on a growth path in India, the fifth biggest car market. However, Nissan lags behind Renault in volume and market share. The Japanese company is aiming to more than double its market share to five per cent by 2020-21. Guillaume Sicard, President, Nissan India Operation, talks to Ajay Modi on the brand’s performance vis-a-vis Renault, its growth plans and focus areas. Edited excerpts:
Nissan has been able to grow its share from 1.4 per cent to 1.9 per cent in the past one year helped by RediGO. What is the scope to further expand this?
We want to reach five per cent market share in India by 2020-21. When you look at large car markets like China, US or Europe, we have a minimum of five per cent share in each of these. We want to make sure that we are at this share in India as well. The strategy is to bring a mixture of new products and we plan to bring eight new vehicles by 2020-21. We will extend our marketing network further from the current 279 points. These will be the pillars of our growth for the next four-five years.
How do you see the Indian market change in the next 4-5 years?
You have two kinds of customers here. The first one is mature (with a global exposure) and wants to drive the same cars that he finds in US or the Middle East. This segment is growing for us and it is the main target of Nissan. The second segment includes the risers who are coming to the car market for the first time. We have positioned Datsun for them. SUV is a big growth segment now and it is helping Nissan. But many people want a hatch. However, the sedan is still important and we should not forget this segment. The regulations here are getting stricter and we have to find the right solutions. Globally, we have these and we need to bring them to India at the right cost.
What will India's role be in future product development at Nissan. How will it change?
India is a key market for Nissan. If you look at top markets like China, the US or Europe, we are the leading Japanese brand. India is going to become the third biggest market by 2020-21 and Nissan has a big focus here. India is definitely a part of the plan and we want to make it join the three blocks. You will see our line up develop. The R&D will concentrate a lot on India development in terms of new cars, connectivity and clean energy. There is a focus from the headquarters. Japanese companies may not be the quickest but they are focussed.
Nissan currently exports more volumes from India than it sells locally. Will exports remain higher even when you grow the India share?
We have always maintained an export programme in India. It is a good strategy since the beginning and has helped us from the financial point of view and made us competitive. We will keep our export programme on. This will act as a shock absorber if anything happens in the local market and we can maintain the plant and jobs. Going forward, export will decrease and domestic will increase. I don’t think export will be more than 50 per cent in future.
What levels of automation do you have in Indian plants?
Automation today is on the lower side. However, with the expansion of plants we are injecting higher automation step by step. It is an evolution but there is no big rupture. We want to put robots in tasks that are difficult. You will see the plant picking up a few robots on a yearly basis.
At times, a comparison is drawn between Nissan’s performance and that of its partner Renault. How can Nissan rise to the level Renault has achieved? Renault started its India story before Nissan. They had a joint venture with Mahindra. The Indian market is very complex and difficult to understand. To reach a certain level of maturity you need some base. Our partner started earlier and today has a fair level of maturity. Nissan came much after and so its maturity is evolving. Growth depends on product plans and understanding of the market. We are an alliance and have been benefitting from each others’ success. There is better economy of scale, smoother investments and R&D. We are very positive. We can learn from their success and benefit ourself. While there is no competition internally, there is a competition in the market and we function as independent companies.