Dubai — Nissan Middle East sees the the market for hybrid cars in the region growing especially in the UAE, as the country is the front-runner for sustainability initiatives, managing director Samir Cherfan told Khaleej Times in an interview.
Hybrid-electric vehicles, or HEVs, combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electric motors and can be configured to obtain different objectives, such as improved fuel economy, increased power, or additional auxiliary power for electronic devices and power tools.
“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,” Cherfan explained.
Nissan recently launched a Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, providing Middle East customers with an eco-friendly sport-utility vehicle and the Japanese automobile manufacturer claims the vehicle does not compromise the driving experience.
The Pathfinder Hybrid is 24 per cent more fuel-efficient than the conventional mid-sized SUV with considerable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (207g/km).
Coming in two-and four-wheel drive models, the Pathfinder has a 2.5-litre gasoline engine and an electric motor paired to a compact lithium-ion battery.
“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,| Cherfan said.
“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.”
Nissan sees 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, he said, adding: “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.”
Cherfan believes the Pathfinder Hybrid appeals to a wide consumer base. “With its impressive power and space as an SUV, it is a great choice for the 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,” he added.
Industry growth forecast
Talking about the industry’s growth in the wake of falling oil prices and a volatile Japanese currency, he explained: “We forecast that the oil barrel will stabilise around $65 and that the Japanese yen versus the US dollar exchange rate will settle around ¥120. Under these market conditions we foresee that the total industry volume in the GCC will grow by four per cent in 2015.”
Nissan has maintained its position as the region’s fastest-growing automotive brand in the GCC 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 the GCC specifically, Nissan recorded a more than 18 per cent sales increase with 185,135 units sold in 2014 versus 156,778 in 2013, reaching a 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 a 12.3 per cent market share in the GCC. For Saudi Arabia, 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.”
The biggest growth markets for Nissan in the Middle East are the UAE and Saudi Arabia, according to the Cherfan. In the UAE, Nissan maintained second position in the sales charts, selling 63,036 units — up by 10 per cent versus 2013 — and achieving a 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 kingdom-wide dealer Alissa Auto, has reached the third position in sales with 61,806 units, reaching a 7.2 per cent market share, which represents a 141.7 per cent growth year on year versus FY13.
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,” Cherfan said.
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