For the automakers, products are one of the key elements for success. Nissan strives to develop and introduce innovative and attractive products, which are aligned with market trends.
For this issue, we are excited to introduce to you the Qashqai (Dualis in Japan), which has received high marks and achieved record sales performance. This issue will provide you with the background on how Qashqai was developed and launched and explain its current situation.
1. What is Qashqai ?
In February of 2007, Nissan launched the all-new Qashqai, which was produced in the Sunderland Plant in the U.K. The vehicle belongs to a new category known as the "middle size cross-over SUV" and is targeted to compete with vehicles in the highly competitive C-segment, which include vehicles such as Volkswagen Golf, Renault Megane and Peugeot 307. Most of Qashqai's design work had been done at NDE (Nissan Design Europe) in London. The distinct appearance, where SUV and hatchback are uniquely blended, has been enjoying a favorable response. With its high-performance suspension, the vehicle can compete on even terms with hatchbacks in Europe, where higher levels of driving performance are required. Some of the reasons for its popularity in Europe include its agile performance, comfortable driving feel and responsive handling, which are missing in many SUVs.
Here are some examples of Qashqai's outstanding performance in Europe during FY2007.
- At the end of April 2007, which was two months after its introduction, there was a backorder of 50,000 customers. And some customers had to wait over 10 months to receive delivery on their Qashqais.
- 70% of Qashqai customers had switched from other automakers.
- Launched in May of 2007, Dualis was initially produced in the Sunderland Plant for the Japanese market. However, due to heavy demand for Qashqai in the European market, Dualis production was transferred to the Kyushu Plant in Japan in December 2007.
- With 157,000 units sold in FY2007 (From April 2007 to March 2008), Qashqai became Nissan's top-selling model in Europe.
- In FY2007, Qashqai's top selling markets in Europe were Russia, with sales of 24,000 units, followed by the U.K., with sales of 21,000 units.
2. The birth of Qashqai
While Qashqai has been enjoying strong sales, it took considerable time and effort prior to its introduction. Since the initial days of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the newly developed C-platform was to be used for the compact sedan hatchback "Almera" (Pulser in Japan) in Europe, a SUV "X-trail" and a minivan "Serena" in Japan. A successive model of Almera was to be launched as the first model using the C-platform. However, the Almera belonged to the C-segment hatchback market, which is highly competitive. Therefore, it was very difficult to decide how to make the appropriate changes for a new model. Given Nissan's brand position in Europe, the price had to be less expensive than the competition. Furthermore, the exterior and interior quality, as well as the basic performance of the vehicle had to catch up with European standards. Due to these factors, Nissan was required to make considerable efforts and significant investments just to be at the starting line of the race.
Using Renault as a benchmark, Nissan aimed to lower significantly the cost of engineering and parts purchasing. For this reason, Nissan conducted detailed studies on costs with related departments, including the manufacturing division and the sales and marketing division. Although these efforts resulted in a dramatic reduction in cost from the current Almera, the company was unable to achieve a high profit target in the last phase. As a result, the project was terminated and the next-generation Almera was discontinued.
In the meantime, the planning team had already come up with a new project. The new vehicle was to be a "compact crossover vehicle". This new vehicle was a fusion of a C-segment hatchback (as previously mentioned a huge market in Europe) and a SUV, a segment in which Nissan has been successful in Europe. Crossover vehicles are characterized by its vehicle height with excellent visibility and provides the driver with a sense of safety and protection, while delivering a brisk hatchback-like ride. Combining the advantages of SUVs and hatchbacks, crossover vehicles require high levels of technology and considerable investment. The styling also needs to be sophisticated. Moreover, if customers acknowledge the value of crossover vehicles, the price could be raised to the level of C-segment hatchbacks. For example, Qashqai is priced at almost the same level as the Volkswagen Golf.
Needless to say, a new vehicle has to deliver enough performance and attractiveness that matches the raised price. Therefore, the budget needed to be met through strict cost reduction efforts in the same manner as the unrealized next-generation Almera.
Through this process, a profit plan was formulated and approved in spring of 2003. The full-scale development of Qashqai had begun.
When developing a new vehicle with a challenging budget, there is no point in making a vehicle which is just inexpensive and boring. Customer needs must be identified. The budget needs to be allocated to these high-priority items and conversely, inexpensive structures are adapted to low-priority areas. This is the process the company aims at achieving, without compromising quality. For example, engineers focused on the interior quality and function of the front seats, due to the heavy usage by drivers.
In Europe, driving speeds are faster and driving ranges are longer than in Japan. Therefore, superior handling, stability and a comfortable ride are strongly emphasized. For optimal handling in stability with a comfortable ride, a newly-developed suspension was installed on the rigid body with delicate adjustments. This provided a profound driving experience, which lives up to "trusted driving pleasure", one of Nissan's goals. Because it's easier in Europe to conduct test drives in public roads than in Japan, over 1.3 million km of test drives were conducted prior to the Qashqai release. This is one of the reasons for Qashqai's profound driving performance. We can proudly proclaim that Qashqai is a vehicle that had been developed and refined in Europe.
As originally planned, the final product obtained good performance with an attractive design. Once thought to be difficult, target costs were also accomplished. Qashqai has exceeded our expectations with high evaluations from journalists and customers in different countries.
* All photos featured are Dualis.