Nissan could start making mainstream family hatchbacks and saloons again within the next few years now that it is achieving consistent sales success with its crossover vehicles.
The company has had no direct rival for cars such as the Ford Focus and Ford Mondeo since 2006, when the Almera and Primera reached the end of their production lives.
'In those segments you are up against some of the biggest names in the European motor industry – Ford, Opel (Vauxhall) and Volkswagen,' says Simon Thomas, Nissan's senior vice-president in charge of sales and marketing. 'It has benefited us by leaving them to get on with it and pursuing our own strategy.'
Instead, Nissan opted to put its main effort into crossovers and small cars. The Qashqai - the mid-sized car that bridges the gap between the Almera and Primera - has been such a resounding success that Nissan has introduced a third shift at the Sunderland factory where it is made, and there is a 14-week waiting list for the car. It helped Nissan to a record a 3% share of the European new-car market in 2009.
Taking on the big guns
This has given Nissan the confidence to consider whether it should once again take on Europe's big guns with traditional vehicles, especially now that competitors are starting to copy the crossover idea.
'Our aim with crossovers was to build the brand and the scale of our operations, and we have achieved this,' says Thomas. 'Crossovers are working well for us, but we have to admit that they are not the most CO2-efficient cars because of their aerodynamic profile.
'So, in the next five years maybe our customers will be more likely to consider a traditional kind of vehicle. One thing I can say is that if we do go ahead, the cars will have to have the innovative design and driving enjoyment that we have brought to crossovers.'
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