By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Narasimhan, who replaced Frenchman Antoine Barthes earlier this year, said that Nissan is looking at other brands and adopting strategies that will help it gain customers.
“It takes time,” he said, adding that Nissan is continuing to invest in the pickup truck segment while maintaining its strength in the city car market.
While the latest trend in the automotive world is electric vehicles (EV), Narasimhan, an Indian-born Australian, said that this is an important part of Nissan’s goal.
“The future is going to change and somebody is going to make the first move,” he said. Narasimhan predicted that in 10 years, there could be as much as 400,000 EVs on the road.
Nissan is the first major auto maker to launch an EV in Thailand. However, the Leaf EV is imported from Japan and due to import duty it is priced at almost Bt2 million, which puts the car in the luxury market rather than the affordable vehicle market.
The Leaf is not the only EV in the market though, with Hyundai, Kia and MG offering EVs as well.
“Competition is good, it will help spread the EV message,” he said.
Narasimhan said that Nissan decided to introduce the Leaf in Thailand not for volume or profit, but to lay a strong foundation for the age of EVs.
While Nissan is looking at sustainable objectives globally, locally it is working with government agencies such as the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) and Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) in order to set up an eco-system for EVs.
Asked whether Thailand could become an EV production hub for Nissan in the future, Narasimhan said first there need to be an appropriate supplier base, particularly for batteries.
In this region, the Leaf is also sold in the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, which are generally export markets for Thailand.
“There’s no reason we wouldn’t use our facility to export,” he said
Narasimhan had been working in many Asian countries including China and the Philippines.
“I love working in Asia because people are so friendly and there is a lot of talent here, no doubt about that,” he said. “They have the willingness to work beyond what is expected.”
Nissan has seen improvement in many Asia markets recently. For example, in the Philippines where it was ranked ninth in the market five years ago, the Japanese brand has currently risen to the number three spot.
“As a brand in the region, we are continuously becoming stronger, not only with new products in new segments, but also with improved service as well,” Narasimhan said.
In Thailand, Nissan has been involved with a large number of social activities, apart from simply doing business.
“A good example is the Nissan Youth Leadership programme where we asked kids to draw what they think would be the car of the future,” he said.
“The drawings were extremely environmental conscious which shows us that the new generation has intelligent questions for us,” Narasimhan said.