MUSCAT: Briefly trace your company’s origins in the Middle East and tell us how you are now positioned in the region?

Nissan’s relationship with the Middle East goes back to 1957 when the first Nissan vehicles were delivered to Saudi Arabia. We were also the first Japanese auto brand to establish a fully-fledged presence on the ground in the region in 1994. Since then Nissan has grown into one of the most recognised automotive brands in the Middle East.

As a company with a rich heritage in the Middle East, we are deeply committed to growing our operations as our global HQ regards the region as a key growth market. Our strategy for success is still based on the well-known Nissan global growth strategy ‘Power 88’, which our CEO Carlos Ghosn announced we would achieve by 2016.

From our pioneering crossover vehicles, class-leading small cars and Hybrid Pathfinder to the legendary Nissan GT-R and all-conquering SUVs such as the ‘Hero of All Terrain in Life’, the Nissan Patrol – Nissan Middle East’s vehicle line-up is one of the broadest and most popular in the region, covering almost every segment of the automotive market.

How have you performed in 2014 and how does it compare with 2013? What are 2015 indicators for sales?

Nissan has maintained its position as the region’s fastest-growing automotive brand for the third consecutive year, selling in the Middle East a record breaking 219,129 units in the 2014 financial year – up 3.3 per cent on 2013. In addition, Nissan achieved the best ever customer satisfaction results through top-level quality customer service.

In the GCC specifically, Nissan recorded a 18.1 per cent sales increase with 185,135 units sold in 2014 versus 156,778 in 2013 reaching 10.3 per cent market share. Under our Power 88 Mid Term strategic plan, Nissan Middle East is targeting to sell in the GCC 240,000 units by FY16 and reach 12.3 per cent Market Share in the GCC. For Saudi, we have announced we are targeting to sell 100,000 units by FY16. This strategy has been extremely effective for us in the region as we have demonstrated with our recent financial results.

Which countries in the region hold the most potential for future growth?

The biggest growth markets for Nissan in the Middle East are the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, Nissan maintained its strong No 2 position in the sales charts, selling 63,036 units – up by ten per cent versus 2013 and achieving 15.3 per cent market share. Nissan’s purchase consideration in the UAE has also increased by 46 per cent in the past two years, closing the gap with the market leader.

In Saudi Arabia, after the first full year of operation of its revival plan, Nissan with its dealer Alissa Auto has reached the third position in sales with 61,806 units, reaching 7.2 per cent market share, which represents 141.7 per cent growth year on year vs FY13. Furthermore, Nissan Brand Purchase Consideration has strengthened by 27 per cent reaching the second position in the market.

Are you more optimistic about increased sales in the face of presently falling fuel prices and are you also exploring alternative fuels like hydrogen or hybrid engines?

According to our analysis of the market, we forecast that the oil barrel will stabilise around US$65 and that the Japanese Yen vs US$ exchange rate will settle around US$120. Under these market conditions we foresee that the TIV (Total Industry Volume) in the GCC will grow by four per cent.

Nissan Middle East sources its cars from various Nissan factories across the world and can thus bring top-quality vehicles at a favourable price. Our innovative and exciting technology and the increasing brand perception are a major part of our appeal.

Tell us about the fuel efficiency credentials of the Nissan Hybrid Pathfinder.

We are big believers in supporting sustainable driving technology and offering greater fuel efficiency across all our models. With this in mind, we recently launched a Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, providing Middle East customers with an eco-friendly SUV that does not compromise the drive experience.

As demand for high efficiency gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles grows, the Pathfinder Hybrid offers a uniquely Nissan ‘innovation’ approach that increases fuel economy and driving range without compromising its 7-passenger, 3-row roominess, ample cargo space or responsive performance compared to Pathfinder V6-equipped models. The Pathfinder Hybrid is 24 per cent more fuel efficient than the conventional Mid-Sized SUV with considerable reduction in Co2 emissions (207g/km).

Nissan has a clear vision of the future of transportation through Pathfinder Hybrid with high-quality fuel efficient innovation that is well engineered, attractive, accessible and fun to drive. The Pathfinder Hybrid’s (HEV) large 74l fuel tank, the same as conventional models, offers a best-in-class range of 785km on a single tank, and further efficient fuel consumption of 9.1l/100km. Thanks to a responsive 250-horsepower, 2.5l supercharged, 4-cylinder petrol engine combined with an electric motor, Pathfinder Hybrid goes the distance for you in every way.

Coming in four-wheel drive model, the Pathfinder has a supercharged 2.5l gasoline engine and an electric motor paired to a compact Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. The Li-ion battery fits under the third row seat, so there is no reduction in passenger seating capacity, legroom or overall space. With the flat rather than raised floor, entry and exit to and from every row is as easy and convenient as the standard Pathfinder models.

Who is this model targeted for and how has this model been performing in the region?

There are many potential opportunities in fleet sales as more companies are looking for ways to reduce their operational costs but keeping their employees on-the-go. The organisations we believe would be interested in this Hybrid model include those that have employees that spend a lot of time on the road, such as with fleets. Additionally the Pathfinder Hybrid appeals to companies that want to reduce their environmental footprint and have a commitment to sustainability. We believe the Hybrid Pathfinder appeals to a wide consumer base. With its impressive power and space as an SUV, it is a great choice for outgoing explorer. However, its fuel efficiency credentials also make it a desirable car for families that do a lot of driving and are more conscious about running costs.

What opportunities and challenges do you foresee for the Hybrid Pathfinder in the region in the foreseeable future?

We see a lot of opportunity for the Hybrid Pathfinder in the Middle East market, especially as countries start to make more of an effort to drive sustainability initiatives. The UAE has been a front runner in this area with the launch of the 2030 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Initiative and Dubai’s Green Economy for Sustainable Development.

As Middle East consumers become more eco-aware and environmentally conscious, we foresee that Hybrids will start to increase in popularity the same way they have in Western markets. The big ideal doesn’t just come from the fuel efficiency and cost reduction but from an ethos to be more environmentally responsible.