x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Nissan puts hope in region

Car maker aims to double Middle East sales and pay off debt by the end of this year, says chief executive.

ABU DHABI // Nissan is aiming to double its market share in the Middle East and become free of debt by the end of this year. Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Nissan, said the company had not reached its potential in the region, which would play a part in the car maker's continuing recovery. "When people talk about the emerging markets, they talk about the BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - but I also say the Middle East is an emerging market," Mr Ghosn said yesterday in Abu Dhabi while launching the latest Nissan Patrol.

Car makers worldwide experienced sharp falls in sales last year, after many potential buyers put off major purchases. In the UAE, car sales slowed after banks tightened loan criteria. The car market in the Emirates contracted by an estimated 8.5 per cent last year, to 324,900 cars, according to the UK consultancy Business Monitor International. Mr Ghosn said Nissan suffered financially in last year's global economic crisis but last week returned to profit with a third-quarter net gain of ¥45 billion (Dh1.83bn) and the company expected to be debt-free by the end of this year.

He said Nissan was number two in sales after Toyota. The newest Patrol is more luxurious, with extras such as DVD players, 7-speed automatic transmission and leather and woodgrain interiors that were introduced with the Middle East market in mind, Mr Ghosn said. "I personally pay close attention to what is going on in the Gulf," he said. Local feedback on the Patrol was that it was "too frugal, too austere" for the Middle East.

Despite the public relations disaster created for Toyota and Lexus by global recalls over safety concerns, Mr Ghosn said that such problems for competitors only offered a "short-term advantage" for Nissan. But the high expectations Nissan has for the Gulf will not be enough to offset declines in other parts of the world, he said. "The European market is a very big market and it has a 10 per cent drop - 1.6 million cars disappeared. But the Gulf market is less than 1 million cars."