Tag Archives: Nissan Canada

Rise up, rise up

Sales of the Nissan LEAF topped 1,000 units in Canada in 2014, a new high for the all-electric vehicle (Image: Nissan)

Sales of the Nissan LEAF topped 1,000 units in Canada in 2014, a new high for the all-electric vehicle (Image: Nissan)

If you’ve see Nissan Canada swaggering around lately, there’s good reason for it.

The Canadian division of Nissan Group – much like its American brother – boasted killer sales in 2014, vastly growing their customer base and setting company sales records. In an economic climate that had buyers demanding “value!”, Nissan offered it with a lineup of competent, ‘smart buy’ vehicles.

Not bad for an automaker that was getting pretty invisible just a few years ago.

If you think of Nissan as the overlooked high school football player who scores the winning touchdown in the last seconds of the game, I think they can be forgiven for any showboating.

In November of this year, the company’s Nissan and Infiniti brands posted a combined 21.5% year-over-year sales gain compared to Nov., 2013. Year-to date, Nissan Canada sales were up 28.2% in the first 11 months of 2014.

These are serious gains – enough to push Nissan into the Number 6 spot in Canada’s brand ranking and capture 6.3% of the market.

On Nov. 13 of this year, Nissan Canada celebrated another milestone when they passed the 100,000 units mark for the first time since entering the Canadian market in 1966.

Canada's cheapest car proved solid and fun to drive, leading to big sales for the Nissan Micra (Image: Nissan)

Canada’s cheapest car proved solid and fun to drive, leading to big sales for the Nissan Micra (Image: Nissan)

Leading the sales surge was the popular Rogue compact crossover (sales up 77.8% year-to-date), the spacious Sentra sedan, and the surprise success of the Micra subcompact, which was touted as Canada’s cheapest car ($9,998) when it went on sale this past spring. A total of 924 Micras left dealer lots in November, with 6,987 sold between April and November.

Even the all-electric LEAF, which has been on the challenging EV market for several years now, posted a 131% year-to-date sales gain, topping 1,000 units sold in 2014.

The automotive landscape at Nissan looks to remain fairly unchanged for 2015 – after all, why mess with a good thing? – but the company will have to keep on its toes to ensure it doesn’t lose any of the ground it gained this past year. With gas far cheaper than it was a year ago, it seems opportune that Nissan’s newest models – the redesigned Murano and next-generation Titan pickup (to be unveiled in January) – are on the large side of the vehicle spectrum.

Having had such success in the small car market, it would make sense that Nissan would seek to make gains in the large vehicle segment.



Big time

Besides doing big business, the 2014 Nissan Sentra boasts size - both inside and out - at the top of its class.

Besides doing big business, the 2014 Nissan Sentra boasts size – both inside and out – at the top of its class.

If you’ve been seeing a lot more Nissan Sentra’s plying the roads lately, it isn’t your imagination.

Buyers have been snapping up the Sentra like canned goods before a Category 5 hurricane, giving the traditional compact car players a run for their money.

This is a big step back into the spotlight for a venerable model that had become almost invisible in Nissan’s lineup.

October sales in the U.S. show a staggering 56.3% increase over the same month last year, while year-to-date sales are up 44.7% over 2013. In Canada, Nissan moved a total of 1,372 Sentras off dealer lots in October, compared to 1,178 in Oct., 2013.

One thing I can’t help but notice when I see one is its size. You’d swear it was pushing into mid-size territory. If this were the 1990s, you couldn’t tell me the 2014 Sentra is smaller than a Chevy Corsica or Ford Contour.

(Ah, that long lost ‘lower midsize’ category. May it rest in peace.)

After seeing this sizeable compact eleventy billion times, I figured it was time to get down and dirty and compare measurements, just to see if my eyes were deceiving me.

Sentra sales are up 44.7% over last year. (Image: www.newcars.com)

Sentra sales are up 44.7% over last year. (Image: www.newcars.com)

Dimension-wise, I compared the Sentra to other popular vehicles in its class – the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze. Cargo volume was thrown in for good measure, because who doesn’t look a big trunk?

Going by factory spec, it turns out the Sentra is indeed on the large size, coming in at-or-near the top of its class in terms of length and wheelbase.

At 182.1 inches in length, only the Toyota Corolla bests it, and that’s only by five-tenths of an inch. This was somewhat surprising, as the Corolla  in my eyes – appears a little stubby.

The Sentra’s wheelbase, 106.3 inches, was matched by the Corolla and the Mazda 3.

Trunk space, at a generous 15.1 cubic feet, was at the top of the pack. The closest challenger was the Cruze at 15 cubic feet. The other four vehicles ranged from a measly 12.4 cubic feet in the Mazda 3 to 13.2 cubic feet in the Corolla and the Focus.

The Sentra makes no sporting claims in its advertising, preferring to sway car shoppers with value. Offering lots of space for the money is a time-honoured tactic that seems to work well, assuming that the product is at least of fair quality.

With the other brands in a sales tug-of-war fueled by claims of driving excitement (and a healthy dose of name-recognition), it seems the folks at Nissan made a conscious choice to go big, or go home.




Price chopper

"Guys! Hey, guys!... Over here!"

“Guys! Hey, guys!… Over here!”

There’s a war brewing.

The population is dividing into camps, taking sides, circling the wagons. How this will end, and what will be left when it’s over, nobody knows.

Yes, I’m talking about entry-level subcompact cars.

Nissan Canada created a splash earlier this year when it introduced (re-introduced, technically) the diminutive Micra hatchback, priced at a rock-bottom, take-off-your-sunglasses-and-squint $9,998.

“What the hell?” cried a heavily taxed, half-frozen Canadian public. “Those are 1990 prices!”

The sub-10K sticker price was a big coup for Nissan and for advertisers, as they could now say they were selling the cheapest car in Canada.

“Step up, Millennials! Don’t be afraid – it won’t hurt you!” the ads shouted, implying there would still be income left over for bike spokes and craft beer.

To achieve that low starting price, buyers of the base Micra will have to do without such must-have’s as air conditioning, automatic transmission, cruise control and power windows/door locks, and  it remains to be seen how many drivers will be willing to go forward in such a primitive way.

Frankly, this setup reminds me a lot of my first car, a ’93 Plymouth (I survived the ordeal).

Lost in all the hubbub generated by the Micra’s launch was a vehicle launched last fall that also claimed to be an economic superstar. The Mitsubishi Mirage debuted under a loud banner of ‘America’s most fuel-efficient gasoline car’, touting a combined 40 miles per gallon (U.S.).

In Canada, ads cheerleaded the Mirage’s diesel-like 4.4 litres/100 km highway mileage, which works out to 64 mpg (Imperial). However, in order to achieve these savings at the pump, drivers had to fork over more cash at the dealership.

The Mirage launched with an MRSP of $12,995, a price that was already undercut by other vehicles, including Canada’s previous cheapest car, the Nissan Versa sedan. In Quebec, the vehicle listed slightly less than in the Rest of Canada.

The mileage figures got some press, but nothing like the Micra’s starting price, and it makes sense. The Micra would save you money on Day 1, while the Mirage would save a driver money over time, depending on how much driving was done.

No surprise that winning the lottery is sexier than creating a high-interest investment portfolio.


Guess who’s back?

Not content to have the Micra soak up all of the cheap car limelight, the Mirage is fighting back the only way its manufacturer can – by reducing its price.

As of June, after a consumer cash discount of $2,500, a new Mitsubishi Mirage will set you back – wait for it – $9,998.

Yes, there are now TWO cheapest cars in Canada, both battling for sales ground amid a struggling economy and record high gas prices.

The vehicle sales website goodcarbadcar.net sheds some light on why Mitsubishi adopted this aggressive approach (see chart here: http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2013/10/mitsubishi-mirage-sales-figures-usa-canada.html)

Mirage sales were pretty much flat for the first quarter of the year, not surprising considering the brutal winter endured by almost all of the country. Come spring we see a sharp uptick in Mirage sales, more than doubling in April compared to the month before, followed by a huge drop in May – the month the Micra debuted.

In the United States, where the Micra isn’t being sold, sales of the Mirage continued to climb as spring progressed. Clearly, Canadian sales were being jeopardized by the Mirage’s newfound competition.

Certainly, the time is right for a low-priced, fuel-efficient car, given the environment we live in, but I’m willing to bet Mitsubishi will have the harder time in this battle.


Make up your mind

Reviews of the Micra point to a driving experience out of synch with the model’s bargain-basement price tag. Capable suspension, a 107-horsepower 1.6-litre four-cylinder, and beefier 15-inch tires sets it apart from the Mirage, which makes do with a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder making 74 horsepower.

The Mirage also rests atop skinny, 14-inch tires and is not known for its handling prowess.

Now that their starting prices are equal, it will be up to the individual buyers to decide what’s important to them – mileage or motoring pleasure. Because there is quite a difference between the two vehicle’s fuel consumption numbers.

On the highway, the tiny Micra consumes fuel at a rate of 6.6 litres/100km, according to the manufacturer. This translates into 43 mpg (Imperial), or 21 mpg less than the Mirage’s highway figure –  a consideration for those making long commutes.

Of course, if the buyer just wants a cheap car for running errands every now and then, it’s doubtful this will matter much. After all, the 2014 Micra is not a 1972 Caprice.

With the opening volleys now fired, we eagerly await updates in this ongoing battle.