By on August 3, 2015

TTAC Nissan Micra Versa sales chart

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.

2015 Nissan Micra S (4 of 10)

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.

2015 Nissan Micra

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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19 Comments on “This Is Why Nissan Isn’t Bringing The Micra To America...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Oh the white door handles tells me it’s por le Quebecoise!

    I’ve been noticing recently a small car around here, which I think is quite good looking. The Elantra GT! That’s in the Fit/Fiesta class, I think. Maybe it’s a Focus/Cruze competitor?

    Anyway I like it.

    http://images.autotrader.com/scaler/620/420/cms/images/cars/hyundai/elantra/2014/2014-hyunda-gt-oem/219619.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Corey,

      That could be a photo of my car, though my Elantra GT is a base model so has 16″ alloys and a stalk-style antenna instead of the shark fin.

      The Elantra GT is a compact, not a sub-compact, so it’s near identically sized to the Mazda3 5-door and the Focus/Civic etc. The Fit feels laughably small in comparison.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I always forget about the 3 when I speak of hatches (it’s stylish too), and I never consider the Civic to “match” because there is no hatch version.

        How have you liked owning it? My sister got a brand new Forte sedan last year (which I’m thinking is at least a little bit related) and has not been too happy with quality. She has a CEL on already for something which they can’t diagnose.

        • 0 avatar
          cdotson

          The Elantra GT is a fundamentally different vehicle than the sedan on a substantially if not entirely different platform. The GT is essentially the European i30. While I agree the Kia Forte/Hyundai Elantra are platform mates, my assumption is that the Forte sedan/hatch are probably split the same as the Elantras are.

          I’ve liked my car pretty well since purchase this past fall and have had zero quality issues. I’m not happy about the eagerness of the traction and stability controls which contributed to a minor curb strike during one of the first snows this past winter (all power cut mid-corner in 2nd gear causing understeer as I was attempting to throttle rotate – my fault as I’ve never driven a vehicle with ESC before).

          Fuel economy’s good (ownership average just below 32mpg) and I think it’s fun to drive. The Mazda3 had a better steering feel but the tablet-dash turned me off and the standard satellite radio in Hyundai would have cost a lot and been hard to find in the Mazda. I have three kids, one still in a car seat, and it’s definitely the smallest car you could make work but I do hear an increasing amount of whining about feeling cramped from my middle child as she is probably big enough, but not old enough, to go without her booster seat.

          • 0 avatar
            heoliverjr

            Could be wrong but I’m pretty sure the Elantra/Elantra GT/I30/Forte are all on the related platform with different engineering for the different brands & regions they are made for. The Forte does not share the same engineering split between sedan & hatchback as the Elanta & Elantra GT. The Kia equivalent of the i30 is the Kia Ceed which we don’t get in North America. The Ceed looks similar to the Forte 5 but it is actually a little bit smaller.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Isn’t the base model manny tranny and no AC? Optioning those up puts you in bigger cars’ price range?

    Fuhgeddaboutit

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Nissan has lower market share in Canada than in the US. There may be more pressure to push numbers up in the Great White North.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The graph is saying that if they offered both models the total sales for both would be fewer than for actual sales for just the Versa. Doesn’t make sense; it’s saying the mere presence of the Micra would drive sales from the brand.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      “it’s saying the mere presence of the Micra would drive sales from the brand.”

      Tim is not without subtlety.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Using the metrics of Versa Canadian decline and Mirage+ volume in the U.S., yes, some months the total may actually be lower – those are just projections using disparate figures we do know. But the total over the course of those six months is in fact higher.

      • 0 avatar
        heoliverjr

        Do the numbers take into account that Nissan Canada only sells the Versa Note and not the Versa sedan? The Versa sedan went away around the same time the Micra was introduced (unless it is a fleet only vehicle in Canada now, the Versa sedan isn’t listed on the Canadian retail consumer site).

  • avatar
    Joss

    Canada will be stuck with this Micra long after asia & europe get the next-generation. Truth is, it was MX market cobbled with older tech like 4-sp & rear drums. The irony being Mirage offers a CVT. Along with better seats (not great) and a less raucous hwy experience. And a longer warranty.

    The ho-hum Sentra is a better value proposition on lease than Micra or Versa if auto & a/c are necessities. Particularly when it’s time to broom out the 2015.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    cars like the Micra are pointless in the US. In the big cities, parking is the biggest worry (not gas); so you’re best off not having any private car and relying on a combo of mass transit, taxi, uber and rentals.

    if you live in the ‘burbs or rural areas, the cost of getting a bigger car (new or used) is literally only a few dollars more per month on the payment. (not to mention the laws of physics when jacked-up crossover meets Mr. Micra even with 431 airbags).

  • avatar
    derekson

    These projections seem optimistic to me, if anything, because Canadians have a more European taste in cars than most regions of the U.S. The Northeast has similar trends, but overall the U.S. simply doesn’t like small cars, particularly small hatchbacks, the same way that Canada does. Look at Golf sales in the U.S. vs Canada, or Versa Note specifically instead of total Versa sales.

    As long as the Versa can be had for similar money to a Mirage, I don’t see a place for the Micra in the U.S. market at all. The only scenario where it would make any sense would be if they made the next Versa only a sedan, and brought the Micra as the hatchback alternative. As long as the Versa Note exists, the Micra is redundant in the U.S. market.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      pleiter

      My theory is that many Americans still debit hatchbacks, as cheap economy rides, stems from the 1980’s. Certain players such as the Yugo and early (first) Hyundai’s started this bias. No matter how many tape measures I use, my spouse believes a hatchback is a sedan with the trunk chopped-off, as opposed to a sedan with the roof extended to the same position of rear bumper and adding a bunch of carrying capability.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      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…).

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