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Thursday, October 23, 2008
So, the Navara has finally arrived in Malaysia. Navara's introduction in Malaysia is two years overdue, not to mention that it is due for a mid-life model update soon. In fact, the facelift Navara will be launched in Thailand somewhere in early 2010. Anyway to be fair, the delay has more to do with limitations within the local Nissan distributor Edaran Tan Chong Motor and also due to restructuring exercises of Nissan's global operations. More on the Navara launch in Malaysia at CBT.
Update : Navara was launched on 5-November. Confirmed specs and price can be found at MTM.
ETCM wants you to think of the Navara as the new King of Trucks, and rightly so; its 2.5-litre 4-cylinder Common-rail Diesel intercooled-turbo engine produces 174PS and a mountain pulling 403Nm of torque at only 2000rpm. That's a lot more pulling power than the 3.2-litre Mitsubishi Triton (L200 in EU) 160PS and 343Nm of torque, and also more than the 136PS and 294Nm produced by the Isuzu D-MAX 3.0-litre. But D-Max counters back by producing its peak torque at a far lower 1400rpm, just a tick-over above idle!
However I am not so sure if Nissan banging on the right unique selling points for its marketing strategy. The current leader in pick-up truck sales is Toyota Hilux, which among all the key players in the truck segment, is the oldest of the lot. Despite its age, Hilux commands the largest sales volume. Next up is Mitsubishi's Triton which leads over Isuzu's D-Max by only a whisker, but Isuzu moves its trucks out of the showroom with far less discounting required compared to Mitsubishi. Earlier this year, Mitsubishi introduced its 3.2-litre variant, which at that time was the most powerful truck in the market. Before that Ford Ranger also boasted of having the most powerful engine, with VGT and a 5-speed automatic transmission. None of these models achieved any sort of sales success. The latest 3.2-litre Triton can barely sell more than 30 units a month. The previous Frontier was also promoted as the most powerful truck (at that time), but it still lost considerable grounds to the less powerful Hilux. Isuzu too introduced a 3.0-litre variant but its marketing strategy was more focused on the "voice of customer" experience, on the reliability and durability of the truck. As we can see from the sales figures, the marketing plan worked brilliantly. Isuzu is the No.1 selling truck in the Borneo region of Malaysia.
ETCM's ad campaign for the Navara plays with the tagline "Mother Trucker," supposedly to give a sort of crude connotation. But the "elements" that support the "Mother Trucker" campaign is very much focused on power and speed, as seen with the Navara's microsite which features some corny flash based game, loosely featuring a Ford F-150, Lancer Evo and something which looks like a cross between a TVR and a Zonda. But as mentioned earlier, how important is the element of speed and power to a truck buyer? Sales figures of "powerful trucks" seems to suggest otherwise. Afterall, the market leader Hilux has one of the lowest power outputs.
Meanwhile Isuzu choose to build an image of durability, reliability, and economical operation with class leading fuel economy. It first ran multiple series of "fuel economy run stunts" to establish the link of Isuzu=excellent fuel economy.
Then the next wave of ad campaigns from Isuzu Malaysia feature "voices of customers." To built on Isuzu=fuel economy to Isuzu=fuel economy+reliability. This sort of focused ad campaign is what car marketers ought to follow.
More at Isuzu Malaysia.
The not so scientific hypothesis : Power doesn't really sell in the truck segment. Don't believe too much into the nonsense that bummers with too much free time spew on Internet forums. Having a strong reputation for reliability and durability matters more than having fancy specs and high power outputs. I doubt those Xenon headlamps are going to sway many buyers.
Image from Siam Nissan.
Of course, this does not in any way predict that the Navara will be a sales flop. But looking at the sales performance in Thailand and Australia, the two most important truck (or utes as the Aussies call it) markets in the region, Navara will do fine but it is not going to cause any sleepless nights to Hilux or D-Max salesmen. In Thailand, despite its superior power, Navara trails at a very distant third place (1st Hilux, 2nd D-Max) while in Australia Navara trails at a very distant second place from top selling Hilux. Isuzu's D-Max was only recently introduced in Australia last month, sold by the newly formed Isuzu Ute Pty Ltd. It will replace the Holden Rodeo under a restructuring of GM Australia's operations.
Despite its age, Hilux remains the market's favourite.
D-Max has been incredibly successful given Isuzu's limited marketing resources.
Triton has sells on its "softer, better looking" design and class leading ride comfort.
Decisions on ad campaigns / marketing strategies should be based on proper market research to understand what ticks truck buyers and what don't. But too often, companies have very little idea of what they want and decide by selecting from any of the ad agency proposals that they fancy, and its usually the cheapest one.
Having said that, it is interesting to note that in both Thailand and Australia, the older Frontier continues to be sold alongside the Navara as a workhorse model. In Thailand, the newer model is refered to as Frontier Navara while its older workhorse sibling is sold just as the Navara. In Australia, the newer model is called Navara D40 while its predecessor continues to be sold as the Navara D22. The workhorse D22 / Frontier models are only available in manual transmission.
In Australia, the workhorse Navara D22 is also available with a chassis-cab ute body.
Over in Australia, Mitsubishi has released an interesting "prototype" showcar for the recently concluded Sydney Motor Show - the Team Mitsubishi Ralliart (TMR) Triton.
More images at WCF.
Of course, this is purely an Australian effort and there is no plan for introduction of "Ralliart" variants of any Mitsubishi models in other markets. Still, its an interesting proposition of what can be done by after-market tuners. I am sure some of these items can be evaluated by the local Mitsubishi distributor to be introduced on an optional basis. Most of these accessories are already available in the market anyway. The difference is when a dealer sells them, the cost of purchase can be included as part of the car loan and paid in installments. Something which customers cannot do with the local 4x4 accessory shop. So there is always a lucrative "optional accessories" business for dealers.
Posted by AutoIndustrie at 8:05 AM