Why the Nissan Micra hasn’t done better in India

Nissan had recently achieved the milestone of producing 100,000 Micra cars in India within a little over one year, however the car has not made a significant impact with Indian buyers. The Micra is a driver’s delight, and compared to other hatchbacks such as Polo, Punto, and Figo, the car can hold its own.  So why has the car not done so well?

Production of the Micra small car in India started in May 2010. The Micra has sold a little over 16,277 units in the Indian market since its launch while the rest of the 100,000 units were exported.

In India, the Nissan Micra dCI is offered in two variants: the XV and XV Premium. The top-end model comes equipped with a start-stop button, automatic climate control, rear wiper, and 15-inch alloy wheels.

nissan micra photo
Photo: The Nissan Micra is a great car but has failed to catch the fancy of Indian Buyers

Importantly, ABS or passenger airbags are not offered even as optional features. At Rs 5.58 lakhfor the XV version and Rs 6.04 lakh for the XV Premium (prices ex-showroom, Delhi), the Micra was a little expensive when launched but is fun car to drive.

Sales performance

Looking at the sales figures in the January-May period, the Micra came above the Skoda Fabia and Fiat Punto. Leaving aside market leader (Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai cars), the Chevrolet Beat, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Figo also did extremely well in the market.

The Micra sold less than 2000 units on an average in this period (and so did the Punto and Fabia). The Beat sold close to 3,000 units a month, Polo did almost 3,500 units monthly, while the Figo did an impressive 7,500 units a month.

More worrying is the declining sales, month-on-month, during this period. So the general slowdown in sales is hitting the Micra further. To be fair, that is also happening to other models (Watch out for our sales analysis in the premium hatchback segment)

The Micra had the following going for it: retro looks, good quality interiors with unique features like the self-folding mirrors, key-less entry, start button on the top-end version. So what’s causing this decline?

Dealership and service network

The company has limited dealer network. It is only 30 dealers across the country, with one dealer outlet each in Delhi, Karnal, Agra, Goa, Kolhapur, Secunderabad and Vadodara.

Nissan had recently opened 7 new dealerships and aims to have 100 dealers by 2013. But has the damage already been done?

Car size

Compared to almost all other competing cars in the category (Swift, i20, Figo, Fabia), the Micra has much smaller dimensions. It also sits closer to the ground with a ground clearance of 154mm while the Swift and the i20 have a ground clearance of 170mm and 165mm respectively. Given Indian road conditions, this is also a big negative for the buyer.

Brand image

The Nissan brand is not well known in India. The company has not been aggressive in advertising and marketing, compared to some of the high-voltage marketing undertaken by Volkswagen and Ford for its new hatchbacks. That was essential given the fact these car makers had to taken on the market biggies – Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai.

The car has sold better than Punto and Fabia because the product is strong – handling, power, ease of driving and build quality. And it looks good.

But unless Nissan decides to scale up its distribution network faster and invest strongly in marketing, the Micra is likely to lose momentum in the coming months.