This Is Why Nissan Isn't Bringing The Micra To America

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
this is why nissan isnt bringing the micra to america

Nissan began selling the Micra in the northern part of North America at the end of April 2014. The Micra was properly available by summer, and over the last twelve months — through the end of June 2015 — 11,832 Micras were sold in Canada.

Could the Micra make it in America? Can we do anything other than report evidence which supports Nissan USA’s decision to leave the Micra to their neighbors in the north and south?

There are a number of factors which cause the two auto markets north of the Rio Grande to appear similar at first glance. In the U.S. and Canada, the Ford F-Series is the perennial best seller. Windsor, Ontario-built minivans are the dominant players on both sides of the Detroit River. SUVs and crossovers are consistently generating more and more sales in both countries as the car sector loses market share in both countries.

Meanwhile, there are other factors which distinguish the two markets. In Nissan’s case, there may be no factor more obvious than the Micra and its position as an important member of Nissan’s car lineup. The Micra is Canada’s third-best-selling Nissan, ahead of everything except the top-selling Rogue and second-ranked Sentra.

Based on the last twelve months, the Micra’s impact on the overall Versa lineup is undeniable. Granted, over the first half of 2015, the duo is up 8 percent, year-over-year, but the 40 percent decline in sales of the Versa — the more expensive car — equals 3,222 fewer units for that nameplate.

The results visible in the above chart represent the carrying over of a few Canadian assumptions to the U.S. ledger. Presently, the Versa is America’s top-selling sub-compact by a wide margin. And even if Versa sales in the U.S. had fallen 40.4 percent in the first half of 2015, as they have in Canada, it still would be. But its share of the market, in a segment where sales of its rivals are slipping only slightly, would plummet.

And for what, 5,000 monthly Micra sales? (That figure approximates the Mitsubishi Mirage’s monthly average U.S. volume, multiplied by 2.25.) Yes, Nissan’s overall small car total would increase, but as in Canada, it wouldn’t increase by as large a margin as Nissan would like. Blame cannibalization.

Moreover, to create that increase for the sake of pleasing dealers who want another entry-level product with a bring-in-the-buyers, bargain-basement price tag; for the sake of stirring up free media over, perhaps, an $8,888 MSRP; and for the sake of engaging a group of youth buyers who may stay with the brand, Nissan would need to absorb the cost of marketing a new product, go through the rigmarole of certifying a new product and beat the Mirage at its own game. OK, maybe that last part wouldn’t be that hard.

So, why would Nissan USA avoid bringing the Micra to market? Because even with a slight increase in total volume, it simply may not be worth their while.

We’re using simple means of projection, yet it must be so. Only if Nissan USA released Micra pricing and information regarding any adjustments they’d be making to Versa bodystyles and/or trim lines would it be possible to know precisely what the Micra’s impact on the Versa would be. Yet, if the U.S. market resembles the Canadian market in any way, if the Micra fared surprisingly well in the U.S. as it has in Canada, and if doing so meant eating into a large chunk of Versa sales, we expect that first half volume in 2015 for the pair would only have risen by 10 percent.

Remember, a large part of the Versa’s appeal is its value quotient. If the Micra steals the affordability limelight, the Versa inevitably loses a chunk of buyers. These projections take into account a Versa decline identical to the one we’ve seen this year in Canada with a Micra, which roundly outperforms its Mitsubishi equivalent. There are inevitably other factors that would arise to throw off these projections, but if Nissan USA is looking at the northerly numbers, you can see why they wouldn’t want to bother with the Micra.

Unlike Canada, where the Koreans continue their domination of the subcompact market, Nissan already controls the U.S. subcompact category. Why mess with a good thing?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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  • Angrystan Angrystan on Aug 03, 2015

    Presently shopping for a used car around $13k. My requirements, aside from personal prejudice regarding age and brands, are ac and no less than 30 highway, more is better. Third pedal strongly preferred. What few other goodies I require I'm likely to order from Amazon. After a couple of weekends studying the market my choice is Sonic, Fiesta or a new Versa. Hyundai has utterly cured the poor-resale-value issue. (at least around here) Nissan is making it very difficult to not buy a Versa S Sedan. 0.0-1.9% financing and a real-world ask under $12. It's pretty quiet, decidedly not Lexus like, but more than you expect for the price. Drivers are reporting 38-40 with a light foot like mine. I'm not well versed with the algebra, but estimate the quite theoretical Micra S would have an MSRP of US$8999 with ac with a real-world ask in the Autumn closer to $8K. At that price you are going to wipe out the late-model used market for we weirdos who just want to get around. Honestly, by now I probably would have just gone and picked up a Micra and been done with the exercise. Any of the power plants in the other cars from Aguascalientes can be plopped into the Micra so a 4-spd auto isn't out of the question for a cheap volume model. The only real danger is Nissan becoming the brand where you get really cheap cars. The truck-like things will probably save the image, but you never know.

  • Volt 230 Volt 230 on Aug 03, 2015

    Why Americans would prefer the Versa sedan over the more useful and versatile (sorry) Micra is hard to understand, the Versa does sell pretty well here, I suppose you get more room for your money compared to the likes of Spark and Yaris and even their own Note.

    • See 1 previous
    • Maymar Maymar on Aug 03, 2015

      I own a similar sized hatchback, and its not entirely more useful. As dorky as they look, subcompact sedans all have utterly massive trunks (the Versa is no exception) which can haul quite a bit more with passengers in place than a hatchback can. The tradeoff there is a bigger footprint (which I take advantage of, since I have to fit a car and a motorcycle in one parking spot). And yes, hatchbacks unfortunately struggle to shake the poor stigma (like the awkward-looking sedan variants are so much better...).

  • Zerofoo I was part of this industry during my college years. We built many, many cars for "street pharmacists" that sounded like this.Excessive car audio systems are kind of like 800 HP engines. Completely unnecessary, but a hell of a lot of fun.
  • DedBull In it to win it!
  • Wolfwagen IIRC I remember reading somewhere that the Porsche Cayenne was supposed to have a small gasoline-powered block heater. There was a loop in the cooling system that ran to the heater and when the temperature got to a certain point (0°C)the vehicle's control unit would activate the heater. I dont know if this was a concept or if it ever made it into production.
  • Jeffro As I sit here this morning with my 2 day old TRD OFF ROAD 4RUNNER tucked safely away in the garage, my head spins with this weird desire to locate a 85 LTD equipped with the epic 😵‍💫2.3 and the FOUR ON THE FLOOR. THE HOLY GRAIL. Ying and yang baby!The search begins.
  • ToolGuy 404 error on the product link. Which probably isn't terrific marketing on TTAC's part. https://thinkwarestore.com/product/f200-pro-ca
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