The Covid-19 pandemic has created big hurdles for Nissan in staging the global debut of the Kicks e-POWER in Thailand.
Originally scheduled for launch in March, the new model was finally introduced in an online event in Bangkok on May 15. Today Thai motoring journalists became the first group in the world to see the actual vehicles up close as well as discuss product features as well as marketing plans.
We asked Nissan Motor Thailand (NMT) president Ramesh Narasimhan a total of five questions regarding Nissan’s plan for the Kicks e-POWER in Thailand.
thaiautonews: What are the marketing and production plans for the Kicks e-POWER considering that the auto market and economy have been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Narasimhan: Nissan in Thailand is committed to providing its customers with the widest range of vehicle and driving choices, as well as to resuming normal business operations as soon as possible. We believe that the launch of the all-new Nissan Kicks e-POWER helps us deliver against both of those goals, and will meet all the requirements of our valued Thai customers looking to buy a compact SUV that is ‘Powered to Thrill’ as it offers a full EV driving experience without the need for an external charge – making it perfect for active urban Thai lifestyles.
We have a proactive business strategy that puts customers at the heart of everything we do. We offer competitive new products with advanced technologies and are focused on continuing to improve the performance of our nationwide dealer network to meet customer needs better and improve satisfaction.
But we are facing significant headwinds. The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the local vehicle market so far this year with volume decline accelerating in March as the government implemented increasingly strict lockdown policies to help slow the spread of the virus. We continue to follow all the advice and guidance of the Thai government and Ministry of Public Health, and have introduced extensive measures to further safeguard the well-being of employees, customers, and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It appears that Thailand automobile sales will be significantly below one million for 2020, around the 600,000-unit level. But Nissan remains committed to offering customers a wide choice – from modern SUVs like the X-Trail and Terra SUVs, to the LEAF, the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, as well as the GT-R, our super sports car. In November 2019, we launched the all-new Almera city car, which makes our product line even stronger, and last week, we launched the all-new Kicks e-POWER.
Thailand is just the second country to begin production of e-POWER technology outside Japan, following a multi-billion baht investment in e-POWER technology production at our facilities in Samut Prakan province. This underlines the importance and capabilities of our Thai manufacturing operations regionally and globally.
Nissan has invested an additional Bt10 billion in our Thai facilities and we are carrying out the original plan despite the changing market conditions.
thaiautonews: While preparation for the Kicks e-POWER started long before the COVID spread, what were the changes that Nissan had to take in order to launch the new model on May 15 successfully?
Narasimhan: Since February we have proactively put in place measures to protect our people. These include sharing accurate information on how-to-do self-protection, providing hand sanitizer in every common area in all offices, performing temperature checks for all employees when coming to the office, having doorknobs and other surfaces cleaned more often, and performing a deep clean once a week, and enforcing social distancing.
The company has also implemented strict travel guidelines since February 2020 and minimized large-scale gatherings. Nissan implemented an extensive work-from-home policy back in March for office employees as part of the wider effort to contain or limit the spread and impact of the virus. We announced a temporary adjustment to production in Thailand in response to the continuing COVID-19 outbreak and decreased demand in the automotive market. Nissan is also confident that it has a sufficient supply of vehicles to meet the needs of its valued Thai customers, and our nationwide dealership network currently remains open and committed to continue providing the best customer service.
We have also ensured that current and future customers have the support they need, and we are supporting our dealer partners to sustain their business during these difficult times. As such, we had launched Nissan’s ‘Care for You’ initiative to support customers and ensure their safety and help them maintain their daily lives with as little disruption as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. These new services and offerings build on vehicle test drive options, vehicle pickup service at dealers and service centers, and include:
- Offering prospective Nissan customers the option to test-drive selected models (Nissan Note, Nissan Almera, and Nissan Navara) from the comfort of their own homes. Interested people can follow simple steps to register for a test drive through the Nissan website or Nissan Facebook page. Once confirmed, the vehicle of their choice is carefully disinfected for maximum safety and is delivered to their home so they can have the most convenient and safe test drive.
- Convenient on-site and vehicle pickup services for periodical maintenance for Nissan customers. Their vehicles will receive scheduled maintenance without the need to leave their homes.
- Currently offering front-line Thai medical staff and other essential workers large discounts on three premium vehicle models.
Nissan in Thailand is also committed to providing its customers with the widest range of vehicle and driving choices, as well as to resuming normal business operations as soon as possible. We believe that last week’s launch of the all-new Nissan Kicks e-POWER helps us deliver against both of those goals.
We continue to follow all advice and guidance of the Thai government and Ministry of Public Health and have introduced extensive measures to further safeguard the well-being of employees, customers, and our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
thaiautonews: How many percent of old/new Nissan customers will purchase the Kicks? Any Juke owners who want to try the new technology?
Narasimhan: It is just too soon to talk about potential customer purchase preferences for the all-new KICKS e-POWER. But the all-new Nissan Kicks e-POWER is a perfect fit for the active Thai urban lifestyle, bringing all the benefits of a 100% electric driving experience without the need to charge externally, along with advanced Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies. The all-new Nissan Kicks e-POWER is designed to meet the needs of singles, couples, or young families who are looking for unique styling, roominess, cutting-edge technology, smart functionality, and advanced safety features- all at an affordable price.
Nissan also wanted to find out how potential customers would feel about Nissan’s e-POWER drive system, which lowers the barriers for entry to drivers who want an electric driving experience due to the small gasoline engine that charges the high-output battery when necessary, eliminating the need for external charging. So we asked them in a recent YouGov survey, and what we found was that 9 out of 10 Thai drivers showed interest in a car that offers a full electric driving experience but does not need to be charged externally. Thai drivers understand there are clear tangible benefits to electric-powered car ownership, appreciating that they are environmentally-friendly and the future of automotive technology.
thaiautonews: When will the first deliveries commence?
Narasimhan: The first local customer deliveries will start in June 2020.
thaiautonews: There seems to be a high interest in the new e-POWER technology, but not many understand it. How does Nissan plan to educate the public on this subject?
Narasimhan: Nissan is excited by the huge potential of electric vehicles (EVs), demonstrated by our investment to grow the category in Thailand. We’ve spoken to drivers from all over Thailand and discovered they are ready to transform their driving experience. Back in 2018, we asked Frost & Sullivan to survey Thai drivers about EVs, and 44% told us at that time that they intended to buy an EV as their next purchase. As consumer attitudes change quickly, we wanted to see how the global movement towards electrification was being perceived in Thailand in 2020. So we worked with YouGov in March 2020 to canvas the views of more than 2,000 consumers from every region of Thailand, and we found that 7 in 10 Thai drivers now say they would consider an electric vehicle as their next purchase.
We also wanted to test the water in that YouGov survey to see how they would feel about Nissan’s e-Power drive system, which lowers the barriers for entry to drivers who want an electric driving experience, due to the small gasoline engine that charges the high-output battery when necessary, eliminating the need for external charging. And what we found was that 9 out of 10 Thai drivers showed interest in a car that offers a fully electric driving experience but did not need to be charged externally. Thai drivers understood there were clear, tangible benefits to electric-powered car ownership, appreciating that they are environmentally friendly and the future of automotive technology.
We have been very active in communicating all the benefits of e-POWER to our Nissan employees, on our website, Social Media channels, through training and other events. And you can expect to see a lot more to come from our dealers and us!