MOSCOW, Russia – Russian consumer preferences, road and weather conditions, as well as rising standards of living are all factoring into Nissan's country-specific design and engineering of vehicles for the country.
Global Chief Marketability Engineer Jerry Hardcastle detailed at the Moscow International Automobile Salon how Nissan is designing, making and selling vehicles for the growing market, looking at the new Nissan Almera, Juke NISMO, and the X-TRAIL.
The Almera is an extremely important car for us, because it's the first car we've designed and developed specifically for the Russian market. That's given us a number of challenges, the first being the unique characteristics we need to deal with.
Most of it's captured by the environment – extremely harsh winters and then very hot summers. Then, the other is the roads. They are a consequence of the environment, because of the change of temperature and the ice, snow and treatment, the roads become very broken and are very rough. Also, customers here in Russia quite often visit their dacha, their holiday home, and the roads from the main highways to the homes are extremely rough and unprepared.
With that in mind we designed and developed this car to meet that requirement. We've increased the strength of the suspension, particularly the stubby bar and the stiffness of the rear beam. We've added underfloor protection, so there's sheet steel underneath the engine. We've also put sheets of steel to protect the pipe work and some cables under the car. The wash tank is 5 liters of water because there is so much dirt and we need to keep the screen clean and be able to refresh it. The trunk lid – you don't want to be closing it when it's dirty with your hands on the outside, so we have a pull-down handle. These are some characteristics that we've put into the car, specifically for this market.
This is the Juke NISMO, final design version, its motor show debut away from Le Mans. This is an important car for the Russian market because Juke is now an important car in the market; it's outselling other Nissans currently, and clearly the Russian customers like it.
Going back to road conditions, one reason for it as a B Segment car is this has got quite a high ground clearance. If you look at the front of the car, you can see how much clearance. This is important because Russians tend to park over high curbstones and things like that. The car has been extremely popular – they like the design, but we want to bring the NISMO brand, Nissan Motorsport, into Europe.
Motorsports is just taking off in Europe, there's a huge interest in it, we've got great interest in Signatech, our driver Roman Ustinov, the G-drive sponsorship. It's all starting to build a story about motorsport, and here we have a car that's got some of that flavor, some of that design, and we really think this car can appeal to a younger, sportier driver, and we've got really good hopes for it.
This is a really important car for the Russian market, particularly because it's built in Russia in our St. Petersburg plant. When we open a plant anywhere around the world, then we want to ensure that we deliver a car with Nissan's quality guarantee. This car is on sale, we're measuring the quality in the market, and we can categorically say the quality is matching that of Nissan cars built anywhere else, whether it's in the U.K., Japan or the U.S., any country in the world.
That's really important for the market, and Russian customers appreciate that. They're now buying this car as a Nissan car, but also as a local car. And as we're producing the car, we're increasing local content, so some components in the car around me are now made by Russian suppliers to the Russian plant. That's guaranteeing quality and also improving the economics of the car, giving employment to Russians, and making the cars even more acceptable in the market.
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