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New Electric ‘Note Aura’ to Launch This Autumn as Nissan Aims to Restore Brand

With plans for 12 new car models and a semiconductor shortage in the fallout of the supply chain issues accompanying the pandemic, there are big challenges ahead.

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Announcing the new Nissan electric moter car, 'Note Aura'.

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Nissan announced on June 15 that sales for the Note Aura, a premium model of their main compact car Note, will start sometime this autumn 2021. With a flatter headlight and an interior fitted with wood-grain trim, the new model will be marketed as a high-end compact car. 

Competing with import cars such as some German brands, the aim is to allure customers that Nissan has not been able to attract before. 

The instrument panel on the driver’s seat is larger than that of the regular Note, and numerous high performance, sound-insulating materials are used on its windows and other parts. Eight speakers made by Bose, a U.S. audio equipment maker, are installed on the passenger headrests, providing a powerful acoustic experience. 

In December 2020 the regular Note was revamped and released for sale. Sales of the new Note Aura were delayed from the original release schedule to sometime in autumn 2021, because of a parts supply chain slowdown due to the global shortage of semiconductors chips. 

During the online launch conference, Nissan vice president Asako Hoshino said, “We are confident that the all-new model breaks the shell of conventional compact cars.” 

Nissan’s new model, ‘Note Aura’

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By introducing the new Note Aura with its all electric motor this fall, Nissan aims to see a rebound from sluggish domestic sales. With their hybrid vehicles (HVs) installed with Nissan’s original e-POWER technology, along with their line of electric vehicles (EVs), the automaker hopes to take revenge. 

However, there is still a risk that the much-wanted restoration of the brand will recede because of a dark shadow cast over production and sales due to the global semiconductor shortage. 

Nissan announced in May of last year that they would introduce twelve new models within a year and a half. In the Japanese market, which is one of its most important markets, Nissan consecutively launched “KICKS”, a HV-specific compact sports utility vehicle (SUV), and the compact car “NOTE”. 

However, with long delays in model changes taking a toll on the business, Nissan’s market share, which was 13.8% in the fiscal year ending in March 2012, declined to 10.3% in the fiscal year ending in March 2021.

According to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Mini Vehicle Association’s May survey of sales of the top 10 new vehicles by brand, Toyota Motor Co. accounted for half of the new vehicles. Nissan was put in a tough spot, with not a single one of their models making the list. 

The hybrid exclusive compact car Note Aura, due to be released this coming fall, has been enhanced to provide an 18% increase in maximum system output compared to the regular Nissan Note model. The use of a special sound-reducing film will also ensure a quiet and relaxing ride. 

“By pursuing high quality, we are aiming for a new position,” says Tomomi Endo, supervisor of the Product Planning Department Japan Product Group. The company’s idea is to exploit a market for compact cars in the high price range of ¥2.5 to 3 million JPY ($23,000 to $27,000 USD), where import cars normally dominate.  

But with the global shortage in semiconductor chips, the impact on production and sales is significant. Nissan expects to reduce production by around 250,000 units per year in the fiscal year ending in March 2022.   

The launch of Nissan’s new SUV-type EV, the “Ariya”, installed with their ProPILOT Assist 2.0 driver assistance system that enables hands-off single-lane highway operation and has a maximum cruising range of 610 km, was also delayed from its originally planned release in the middle of 2021 to the winter of 2021-2022.    

Nissan foresees a net loss for the third consecutive year in the March 2022 fiscal year. If new model launches are delayed again, it may hinder the company’s business performance recovery.

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(Find access to The Sankei Shimbun articles on which this report is based, in Japanese, at this link and this link.)

Author: Takafumi Uno