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Posts Tagged ‘nissan sylphy’

Malaysia’s Cars of the Year 2008

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

The Friday (28/11/2008) edition of the New Straits Times announced the winners of their Car of the Year award. On the same day, I picked up an issue of the December 2008 issue of Autocar ASEAN, which also listed the winners of their own COTY award, announced some weeks back.

Like all COTY awards, the cars are sorted into various categories, and the winner of each category is then placed into contention to win the overall Car of the Year award. Comparing the winners and finalists of both publications was an interesting exercise. In some aspects, they were unanimous, while in others, their opinions differed by quite a fair margin.

These publications not only have differing criteria of evaluation, they also have differing criteria in classifying cars. While the various categories are more or less the same, you might see some cars competing in very different playgrounds in each of the award. In some cases, nominations were given for the entire model, while others, a particular model of the range was nominated.

Nevertheless, considering the small pool of models available in Malaysia, don’t be surprised to see the same few names appearing across both nomination lists. I have listed them all - category, finalists and winner – here side-by-side for your comparison

1. AA: Supermini / Small Sedan, NST: Entry Level Car.

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Hyundai i10
Naza Forza
Proton Saga
Finalists:
Chevrolet Aveo Notchback
Hyundai Accent
Hyundai i10
Naza Forza
Proton Saga
Toyota Vios 1.5J
Winner
Proton Saga
Winner
Proton Saga

The Hyundai i10, Naza Forza and the Proton Saga made it to both nomination lists. NST’s list also included the Aveo, Accent, and the Vios J. At RM69k, the Vios J is hardly ‘entry-level’, but is one of the cheaper means to have Toyota’s badge shining on your driveway. At this end of the market, it’s all about value for money and the new Saga delivers that in spades with its Lotus tuned ride & handling, spacious cabin and adequate performance packaged at below RM40k. Interesting that, for all the enthusiast’s focus found in the likes of the Neo, Savvy and Gen.2, it’s their entry level model that’s making all the waves for Proton.

Proton Saga - unanimous choice.
Proton Saga – unanimous choice.

2. AA: Compact Sedan / Hatchback / Coupe, NST: Premium Small Car

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Chevrolet Aveo
Honda Jazz
Hyundai Coupe
Kia Spectra5
Nissan Latio
Proton Gen.2 CPS
Proton Persona
Toyota Vios
Suzuki SX4
Suzuki Swift Sport
Volkswagen Polo GTI
Finalists:
Fiat Brava
Honda Jazz
Proton Satria Neo R3
Renault Clio 1.6
Volvo C30
Winner
Honda Jazz
Winner
Honda Jazz

Despite having the same winner, the Honda Jazz, the players from these two categories are from very different fields. In fact, you can argue that the NST’s Premium Small Car category is closer in criteria to AA’s Small Luxury Hatchback / Coupe category. Interesting, however, that NST considers as ‘premium’ the Neo R3, which is just an ordinary Neo dressed up in R3 accessories.

The Polo GTI is an interesting option at RM138k – giving you a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine that delivers 150bhp and 220Nm, and a 5-speed manual transmission. Word is going around that some dealers are giving discounts up to RM15k for these cars. It’s fantastic value for money, which probably explains why AA has lumped it with the likes of the Swift Sport, Vios, Persona and Gen.2.

Despite its worldwide popularity, I find the Jazz at RM105-110k to be overpriced, especially when you consider that the mechanically identical Honda City is available at the RM80-90k price bracket. No doubt, the Jazz’s pricing is through no fault of its own, and in an overseas market, the Jazz makes a good buy – but I am afraid, I just don’t see the sense in this one, award or not.

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Honda Jazz - winner of two distinctive categories.
(image by SBY)

3. AA: Mid-size Sedan / Hatchback, NST: Family Car

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Chevrolet Optra
Honda Civic Hybrid
Hyundai Elantra
Mitsubishi Lancer
Nissan Sylphy
Peugeot 407
Proton Waja CPS
Toyota Corolla Altis
Finalists:
Chevrolet Optra
Hyundai Elantra
Nissan Sylphy
Proton Gen.2 CPS
Proton Persona IAFM
Proton Waja CPS
Suzuki SX4
Toyota Corolla Altis
Winner
Nissan Sylphy
Winner
Nissan Sylphy

Common nominees found in both these categories include the Chevrolet Optra, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sylphy, Proton Waja CPS and the Toyota Corolla Altis. AA also made another interesting call to pit the Peugeot 407 in this category rather than as a Large Sedan against the Honda Accord and the Mazda6.

The Waja, at the tender age of eight, also did well to be included in both nominations list, though it’s likely to be due purely to the strength of its 125bhp Campro CPS powerplant. That, together with a much better built interior, comprehensive spec list, and the famous Lotus-tuned handling means the Waja remains an attractive purchase. However, massive ergonomic errors have been carried over from the original design – ensuring a nomination is the best it’s going to get.

In the end, both publications were unanimous in naming the Nissan Sylphy as their winner. While it is unlikely to excite the enthusiasts with its beige interior, torsion beam rear suspension and rear drum brakes, it caters well to the masses who want a spacious car, an economical powertrain and low maintenance costs. Owners’ testimonials in AW and other forums suggest that the Sylphy’s MR20DE engine, paired with Nissan’s X-CVT gives exceptional fuel consumption figures.

Trivia: The Sylphy is known as the Bluebird Sylphy in Japan. For export markets, Nissan has chosen to drop the ‘Bluebird’ half of the name, calling it only the Sylphy. The Bluebird Sylphy badge was originally worn by a specced-up version of the N16 Sentra that was available only in Japan.

Nissan Sylphy 2.0 CVTC - yours for RM113k.
Nissan Sylphy – hardly exciting, but fantastic value for money. Wins awards too!

4. AA: Large Sedan, NST: Executive Car (below RM200k)

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Honda Accord
Kia Optima
Mazda6
Finalists:
Honda Accord
Mazda6
Peugeot 407
Volvo V50 2.4
Winner
Honda Accord
Winner
Mazda6

There is a rapidly growing rivalry between the Honda Accord and the Mazda6. AA has already pitched these two cars against each other in a comparo for their Nov 2008 issue, awarding the tie to the Accord. Much to the surprise of many readers, the Accord even beat the 6 in areas such as the powertrain, and even ride and handling. Unsurprisingly, AA’s award in this segment goes to the Accord. However, the 6 regains its pride by taking the corresponding prize from NST. The Camry ought to be very concerned.

Honda Accord - AA’s choice
Honda Accord – AA’s choice
(image from: www.honda.com.my)

Not to be outdone, Mazda6 takes it from NST.
Not to be outdone, Mazda6 takes it from NST.

5. AA: Small Luxury Hatchback / Coupe 

Autocar ASEAN

Finalists:
Audi TT
BMW 1-series
Mini Clubman
Mini John Cooper Works
Volkswagen Eos
Volkswagen Golf R32
Volvo C30
Winner
Audi TT

The Audi TT has scored an impressive victory here, in the company of some very very competent cars. The more show than go Eos and C30, were never likely winners but the BMW 1-series was a massive scalp by the Audi. A couple of interesting inclusions in this category are the Golf R32 and the Mini John Cooper Works. Although the R32 can still make a passable case as being more luxury than performance, the JCW certainly is too mean a machine to be included in this company.

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TT overcame the likes of the BMW 1-series, Golf R32 and the Mini JCW for its award.
(image by SBY)

6. AA: Compact Luxury Sedan / Coupe, Mid-size Luxury Sedan, NST: Premium Executive Car (above RM200k) 

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Compact Luxury

Mid-size Luxury

Finalists:
Audi A4
Lexus IS250
Mercedes-Benz C-class

Finalists:
BMW 5-series
Citroen C6
Jaguar XF
Lexus GS300
Mercedes-Benz E230
Mercedes-Benz E280 AMG
Volvo S80

Finalists:
Audi A4
Honda Accord 3.5 V6
Jaguar XF
Lexus GS300
Lexus IS250
Mercedes-Benz C230
Mercedes-Benz E230
Winner:
Mercedes-Benz C-class
Winnner:
BMW 5-series
Winner:
Jaguar XF

For the luxury segment, AA has split the cars into the Compact Luxury and Mid-size Luxury categories, while NST lumped them all together into the Premium Executive Car category. After securing a nomination in NST’s Executive Car category, the Honda Accord gets another here – specifically for its 3.5 V6 variant. Unfortunately, it once again returned empty handed.

Both publications did not differ much in terms of their nominations here, with the Audi A4, Lexus IS250 & GS300, Jaguar XF, and Merc E230 receiving nominations from each side, as did the Merc C-class though NST specifically named the C230. AA named two variants of the E-class for the Mid-size Luxury segment, namely the E230 & E280 AMG Sports Package, but both were powerless to stop BMW’s E60 5-series from taking the title. Mercedes did, however, salvage their pride with the C-class winning the Compact Luxury segment.

NST shunned both of the German powerhouses and instead chose to name the new Jaguar XF as the winner for their Premium Executive award. The version sold in Malaysia is the 3.0 V6 that produces 235bhp and 293Nm, although the higher end 4.2-litre versions available on special order. Whatever the engine, this Jag’s trump card is its brilliantly classy yet futuristic interior which is the epitome of cool. You might not expect anyone to say this, but its pricetag of RM488,888 is superb value for money, when you consider the exclusive aura of the Jaguar badge this car wears.

Mercedes-Benz C-class BMW 5-series
AA gives one award each to Merc and BMW.

Jaguar XF
NST shuns both, and awards it to Jaguar.
(image from www.jaguar.co.uk)

Check out the interior!
Check out the interior!
(image from www.jaguar.co.uk)

7. NST: Limousine

NST

Finalists:
Lexus LS460
Mercedes-Benz S500L
Winner
Mercedes-Benz S500L

The Lexus LS460 is a supremely capable car. The technical bits: 4,608cc V8 engine, producing 380bhp & 490Nm sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The list of features include terms such as: multi-information display, electronic multi-vision, 19 Mark Levinson speakers, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), and hill-start assist (why would an auto car need one?). The privelege of owning this bit of kit will set you back RM663k.

That the LS is mentioned in the same breath as the Merc S-class is high praise in itself. Unfortunately, beating the S-class is more than outmatching it in the technical stakes (which I believe Lexus has achieved in some areas), but also facing up to a model heritage history of over 50 years. That for the moment (in the eyes of NST’s judges, at least), is beyond the Lex, and therefore, the S500L wins the NST’s Limousine category.

Lexus did well, but 50 years of model heritage is not easy to beat.
Lexus did well, but 50 years of model heritage is not easy to beat.
(image from www.mercedes-benz.com.my)

8. AA: Small / Mid-size SUV & Large SUV, NST: SUV

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Small / Mid-size SUV Large SUV
Finalists:
Perodua Nautica
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2WD
Toyota Rush
Finalists:
Chevrolet Captiva
Ford Everest
Inokom Santa Fe
Finalists:
Chevrolet Captiva
Perodua Nautica
Winner:
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2WD
Winnner:
Inokom Santa Fe
Winner:
Chevrolet Captiva

NST doesn’t seem too keen on the SUV segment, only nominating the Chevrolet Captiva and the Perodua Nautica for the SUV category, with the Chevy taking the award. AA on the hand, despite splitting the SUV category into Small / Mid-size and Large, still listed three nominations for each category. The Chevy and Nautica got AA nominations too, but no prizes, which went to the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2WD and the Inokom Santa Fe.

Shaking off badge discriminations, the Nautica is actually a fine buy at RM90k – being fully imported from Japan. The interior is a little tight for an SUV, but you know it won’t fall apart. It’s unfortunate that most people can’t accept the idea of shelling out that kind of money for a Perodua. The same, however, can’t be said about the Toyota Rush, which does not have the same level of built quality we’ve come to associate with and expect from the big T. I must say, it’s a surprise nomination to me.

Grand Vitara 2WD is AA’s favourite Small/Midsize SUV
Grand Vitara 2WD is AA’s favourite Small/Midsize SUV.
(image from www.suzuki.net.my)

Hyundai… err…. Inokom Santa Fe
Hyundai…err… Inokom Santa Fe
(image from www.inokom.com.my)

9. AA: Large Luxury SUV, NST: Premium SUV

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
BMW X6
Mercedes-Benz R280L
Volvo XC90
Finalists:
Audi Q7
BMW X6
Mazda CX-9
Winner
BMW X6
Winner
Mazda CX-9

The controversial BMW X6 received a nomination each from both publications for their high-end SUV categories. In the AA arena, the X6′s opponents never stood a chance. The XC90, despite being a hugely capable and competent SUV, is an aging product, while the Merc’s classification in this category is questionable. As far as I am concerned, this was an easy win for the B-M.

It was tougher going for the Bimmer at NST, going against the Audi Q7 and the Mazda CX-9, with the Mazda eventually emerging triumphant.

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X6 blew XC90 & R280 to bits…
(image by SBY)

… but found CX-9 too hot to handle.
… but found CX-9 too hot to handle.

10. AA: Small / Medium MPV, NST: Midi MPV

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Honda Stream
Mazda5
Mitsubishi Grandis
Nissan Grand Livina
Renault Kangoo Diesel
Finalists:
Honda Stream
Mazda5
Naza Rondo
Nissan Grand Livina
Toyota Rush
Winner
Mitsubishi Grandis
Winner
Honda Stream

I am surprised that the Nissan Grand Livina didn’t win at least one of the awards to be honest, being solid value for money, spacious and has a 1.8-litre powertrain that has recorded (actual) fuel consumption figures of 56.6km/l. Those who find the RM97.3k of the 1.8 too much money to shell out, can also consider the 1.6-litre versions that go for RM84.8k(M/T) and RM88.6k(A/T). The engine in the 1.8 version, the MR18DE, is from Nissan’s MR series engines reknowned for their smoothness and economy.

AA’s winner, the Grandis, costs nearly double of the Grand Livina, at RM159k though for good reason, having bigger space, more extensive equipment and the 2.4-litre 4G69 MIVEC powerplant under its hood. It’s 4-speed auto might be a little dated for today’s market, but it comes generously equipped having an 8 inch LCD monitor going with its DVD player as standard.

The Honda Stream makes do with only 1,799ccs of i-VTEC power, but does undercut the Grandis at RM149k. You do get a fully automatic sunroof – but it’s up to you to decide if such a feature is useful. Other features include a self-illuminating instrument panel, dual airbags, ABS and EBD.

Note to NST: Since when was the Toyota Rush an MPV?

AA names Grandis as its Small/Medium MPV of the year..
AA names Grandis as its Small/Medium MPV of the year.
(image from paultan.org)

NST prefers Honda Stream instead.
NST prefers Honda Stream instead.

11. Large MPV

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Citroen C4 Picasso
Hyundai Grand Starex
Finalists:
Chery Eastar
Hyundai Grand Starex
Mercedes-Benz R280
Renault Grand Espace
Winner
Hyundai Grand Starex
Winner
Renault Grand Espace

Nominated by both publications, the Hyundai Grand Starex is a deserved winner for the Large MPV category in the AA awards. While this category is defined by the word ‘large’, the Grand Starex defines ‘large’. My neighbour has one, It’s not just large, it’s huge.

NST’s classification of the R280 as an MPV is far more reasonable than AA’s, but its inclusion of the Chery Eastar certainly raised my eyebrows. I’ll be sure to check the this one out as soon as possible.

Look at the SIZE of that thing!
Look at the SIZE of that thing!
(image from www.hyundai.com.my)

img28601ies.JPG
Renault Grand Espace
(image by SBY)

12. Pick-up Truck

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Finalists:
Ford Ranger XL
Isuzu D-Max Hi-Def
Mazda BT-50
Mitsubishi Triton
Ssangyong Actyon Sports

Finalists:
Mitsubishi Triton 3.2
Mitsubishi Triton Lite

Winner
Mitsubishi Triton

Winner
Mitsubishi Triton 3.2

It’s all about the Mitsubishi Triton here. AA named the Triton its winner in the Pick-up Truck segment, particularly highlighting the value for money of the Triton Lite. In this category, the Ranger, D-Max and the Actyon Sports all make capable competitors and it was quite a feat by the Triton, to Lite version, no less, to take the win. 

NST meanwhile, seemed to be either bereft of ideas, or simply got lazy with this segment, nominating the Triton 3.2 and the Triton Lite as the only contenders - with the bigger brother taking the prize. 

img28421ies.JPG
Triton does the double too.
(image by SBY)

13. Performance Car 

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Below RM300k

Above RM300k

Finalists:
BMW M3
Honda Civic Type R
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Finalists:
Honda Civic Type R
Hyundai Coupe FX
Mazda MX-5
Peugeot 207CC
Peugeot 308GT
Renault Clio RS
Renault Megane CC
Renault Megane R26
Volkswagen Eos
Volkswagen Polo GTI
Finalists:
Audi TT
BMW 135i
BMW M3
Mercedes-Benz SL350
Mercedes-Benz SLK200
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Volkswagen Golf R32
Winner:
Honda Civic Type R
Winnner:
Honda Civic Type R
Winner:
BMW M3

The NST judges ran riot with the Performance Cars, nominating a total of 17 cars split over 2 categories, while AA only named the BMW M3, the Honda Civic Type R and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in the Performance Car category. The Honda’s double victory is not undeserved. To quote a line from AA, “The engine is a modern work of automotive art and the focus on performance is second to none. For those strengths and for having the guts to sell such an extreme product to the public, Honda deserves to be rewarded in this category.”

We can see from the list of nominations, that the NST team of judges had a lot of performance-oriented judges compared to AA’s panel whose opinions are more consumer oriented. No criticism to either on that count, but some of the NST panel’s nominees in segment are questionable, such as the Hyundai Coupe, 207CC, Megane CC, Eos and SLK200. If you think of it, the Audi TT – the lower end versions – isn’t the last word in performance either. These cars are more show than go, though the eventual choices of the Type R and M3 were spot on.

Honda Civic Type R - fantastic bang-for-buck sports car. Worthy double winner.
Honda Civic Type R - fantastic bang-for-buck sports car. Worthy double winner.

BMW M3
BMW M3

CAR OF THE YEAR 2008

Autocar ASEAN

NST

Winner:
Nissan Sylphy

Winner:
Mazda6

AA’s choice of the Nissan Sylphy as their Car of the Year was a surprising one, and provoked intense debate in motortrader.com.my‘s forum. It’s not an enthusiast oriented product, and hence it’s unlikely to be a popular choice among people who would read car mags or browse car forums. I don’t personally agree with AA’s choice either, but I will accept that they have good reasons to select the Sylphy. Thinking from the average Joe family man who wants a good sensible car, the Sylphy does tick all the right boxes – providing simple fuss-free motoring.

I have tested the Mazda6 not too long ago. In fact, chances are, I tested the same white car that was driven by the motoring journalists (registry MBR 800), and I loved it. Fully imported, and selling at RM174k, the 2.5 is an attractive alternative to the RM167k Honda Accord 2.4 (hot favourite for the AA overall COTY award) and RM164k Toyota Camry 2.4.

However, I am not sure it’s my choice as the Car of the Year. A Car of the Year is more than about having fantastic driving dynamics or a comprehensive equipment list. It has to create waves, it has to shake the market, it has to be the car everyone’s talking about. In that respect, I feel the Sylphy is actually a more appropriate winner than the brilliant Mazda, even though the 6 is the car I want parked in my porch.

Autocar ASEAN named it the 2008 Car of the Year - a decision that sparked huge debate in a rival forum.
Autocar ASEAN Car of the Year 2008 – Nissan Sylphy

Mazda6 2.0, a Mercedes van, and the CX-9
New Straits Times / Maybank Car of the Year 2008 – Mazda6

Nissan Sylphy

Monday, July 7th, 2008

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Yes, the name is a bit odd sounding but you will probably get used to it. In fact the name is probably the only thing that would make youthink twice about this family sedan.

The Sylphy is a spacious, modern looking and well endowed family sedan and the price tag starts at RM112,000, which means that it is a relative bargain compared to its Japanese competitors like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla Altis.

In the past Nissan is known for designing either really dull cars, like the Sunny, or outrageous models like the 280ZX and 300ZX, there was nothing in between but the mariage with Renault has given their styling department a lot more depth and maturity.

This gives us cars like the Sylphy which combines Japanese sensibility with French sophistication and the result is a car that is elegant but unpretentious, like the Sylphy.

img21566ies.JPG

The lines are clean and well proportioned while the detailing is neat and stylish. The uniquely shaped headlight and jewel finished front grille is of particular note, they work well together to give the Sylphy a distinctive face and this is worthy of note in a class where blandness and uniformity used to rule.

img21586ies.JPG

img21597ies.JPGAnyone looking for a family car must go and take a look at the all-new Nissan Sylpy. While Nissan may not be the most prestigious of the Japanese brands, it is a company well know for their engineering excellence and this time they have come up with a car that could well rival the Toyota Corolla.

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The Sylphy is an example of good modern packaging with wheels set out at the far corners and the cabins set well forward to take advantage of the otherwise wasted space behind the front bulkhead.

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This cab forward design has liberated enough space to make this the contender for the most spacious cabin in the Japanese C segment, which includes the Corolla, Honda Civic, and Mitsubishi Lancer.

Apart from the space, buyers would also find the interior pleasing with its modern uncluttered lines and understated touches of luxury such as wood paneling, good in car entertainment sytem, climate control and choice of plush fabric or leather upholstery.

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The six-speaker sound system, fully automatic climate control system and lether lined upholstery makes the cabin a wonderful place to be when you are stuck in a jam after a long day at the office.

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that would maintain the ideal cabin temperature. The cin is also kept cool by the UV-film that is applied to the car windows.

According to Nissan he clamshell design front seats hug the occupants snugly and has been designed using their S-motion principle.

They even went an extra step and gave the cabin an Antibacterial treatment that will help the car retain its brand new smell longer and keeps nasty odours at bay.

img21572ies.JPG

Priced between RM112,000 and RM116,000, this puts it at a strong advantage compared to the other contenders and this further adds to the car’s appeal.

Cabin size is not the only place where the Sylphy wins, this thing also packs a bigger pnch under the bonnet, with a modern all-aluminium 2.0-litre engine that is bristling with the latest technology, including variable valve control, fuel injection and a continuously variable transmission that promises seamless ratio and good fuel economy.

img21578ies.JPG

Owners will also appreciate the fuel economy benefits of the electronic power steering system which removes the constant drag exerted by the traditional pulley-driven hydraulic pump that normally assist driver steering input.

With 130 horsepower and 191 Newton-metres of torque, this Nissan will not be a slow mover, in fact when combined with the seamless CVT transmission, the driver always gets a choice of smooth, relaxed driving and instant power.

img21605ies.JPG

This combination of seamless power and comfort lies at the heart of the Sylphy which promises elegance and style.

The theme is clearly visible fromt eh skin of the car which has been designed with many calming surfaces and graceful curves but since we are not supposed to judge a car by its looks, we thought it best to talk about it’s personality rather than looks.

Macpherson front suspension and semi-trailing link at the rear with pre-loaded shock absorbers at all four corners the rear means that passengers would enjoy smoother ride at all times, this is again central to the theme of the Sylphy.

Maybe the Syply can be part of your family too.

Sylphy coming to Malaysia, but did Ghosn bring new Renault models (or Dacia) with him?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

with-sylphy.JPG

After a rather extended waiting period, the Nissan Sylphy will finally be making its way to Malaysia in the second quarter of this year (which means anytime now) and in the process, rejuvenate the rather tired family sedan line-up at Edaran Tan Chong Motors (ETCM).

sentra.jpg sunny.JPG

The wait is not surprising as ETCM is famous for its conservative approach and their tendency to keep models going as long as possible, sometimes well beyond their sell-by date. You cannot blame them because the strategy worked for them for the longest time as Malaysians are also a conservative lot and felt comfortable with the familiar.

The wait for the Sylphy was further extended by the fact that ETCM was building a new modern plant in Serendah and they needed to sort out any teething problems before moving in the Livina, which is their volume model for now and the near future.

Nissan Bluebird Sylphy gallery

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The Sylphy had to wait for the Serendah team to get their stride to prevent technical glitches and quality problems in teh highly competitive Japanese family sedan market that is now dominated by the Toyota Corolla Altis and the Honda Civic.

The Sylphy was introduced to the motoring Press during Carlos Ghosn’s visit to the Serendah plant and the Frenchman was clearly impressed by the new facility.

This is pure speculation but I suspect that his visit was part of ETCM’s effort of getting more models from the Renault-Nissan alliance, specifically from the French side of the marriage.

Ghosn’s reference to Afta and how it now makes it viable for the market to support the fully localised production of multiple brands in his speech it telling of what the boss is thinking and it would not be surprising if Serendah is chosen for that purpose.

This should please ETCM bosses and signal of bigger things to come.

I say that their next move will come from France because Renault as a brand is languishing in Malaysia and Asean. Here only the well seasoned Kangoo is available as the affordable model and the Megane satisfying fans who want something current.

ETCM being a trading company will always want either high volume or good margins and since the Renault brand is not strong enough to command a fat margin, I am quite sure that they are looking for another volume model….

The Dacia Logan is the most logical volume choice for them but TC Eurocars have always insisted that it is too basic and agricultural for the ever more sophisticated Malaysian drivers but things may have changed after they see the new Proton Saga, which is a pretty basic car and the Logan would probably match it spec for spec.

On top of that the Logan has spawned a station wagon, van and pick-up variants which would eb very useful in Malaysia and the Asean market which is lacking low cost commercial vehicles for small enterprises.

Dacia Logan Gallery

logan-saloon-front.jpglogan-dash.jpglogan-interior.jpg

logan-mcv.jpglovan-van.jpglogan-pick-up.jpg

It could also be the new Dacia Sandero hatchback which is a more contemporary and youthful model but hatchbacks are notoriously difficult to sell in Malaysia unless they are priced to go, like Perodua.

Dacia Sandero gallery

sandero1.jpgsandero2.jpgsandero3.jpg

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As the car market continues to look uncertain for the year, it is interesting to see how ETCM responds to the situation, the order book for the Livina has swelled to the point of requiring a second shift in Serendah

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But no one can live on just one model so they will have to get a second volume model running to keep the plant buzzing once the demand for the MPV stabilises. I twould be difficult to start cutting back to one shift and laying off people in a few years time.

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A Renault designer working on the Logan interior

The Livina is proof that Malaysians still want a lot of bang for their buck and there is nothing in the Nissan line-up that can offer that right now while Renault has been going on the world-car offensive for some years and may have more to offer to Tan Chong….

The next few months is critical for the country in terms of political stability and this in turn means that the business community is also taking extra caution with their investments. The more than expected slowdown of the US economy will have its effects on Malaysia a few months down the road so everyone is bracing themselves for a tough time, this year we hit the full ten-year cycle of economic up and down adn there are no prizes for guessing whether it is time for the graph to point north or south

If you are keen, below is the full text of Ghosn’s speech and the Press release from ETCM.

Full text of Ghosn’s speech

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Selamat tengahari… good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.

As it has been seven years since my last visit to Malaysia… I am glad to have this chance to see the progress of the Nissan brand in this important market.

First, I would like to offer our partner, Tan Chong, our thanks for 50 years of success in representing Nissan… and our congratulations on their achievements over the past year.

In January, Nissan recorded its highest monthly sales in Malaysia since 1985: 3,093 units.

And with over 10,000 bookings for our new Grand Livina, we can look forward to more growth to come.

Second, I would like to thank the workforce here at this new, state-of-the-art Serendah plant … for your hard work in gearing up to production in less than a year from the end of construction.

And I would like to encourage you in your efforts as you add a second shift – that will double production to 2,400 units a month by September.

What’s more, I would like to thank everyone involved with the Nissan brand in Malaysia – from the factory and offices through sales and after-sales – for consistently maintaining Nissan in the front rank of satisfying Malaysian customers.

Recognizing the achievements of the Nissan team here in Malaysia is the first of two items on my agenda today. The second is to reaffirm Nissan’s commitment to Malaysia.

There are four pillars supporting Nissan’s commitment to Malaysia.

The first is Nissan’s empathy for Malaysia as a nation.

Nissan came to Malaysia in 1957 – the year of your independence – forming an alliance with Tan Chong that continues to this day.

At the time, not everyone believed Malaysia – with its diversity – would succeed as a country.

But Nissan believed… and ever since we have watched your achievements with growing respect.

The modern prosperity and sophistication of your cities is the most visible evidence.

But for me… Malaysia’s greatest achievement… is the creation of strength from diversity.

Malaysia has succeeded by respecting all identities and striving to include everyone.

As a global enterprise, we recognize this as crucial to our own progress – and a competitive advantage.

No matter what your gender, your color or your culture… at Nissan you are judged on the contribution you make to the company. Over the long term this gives us an advantage in attracting the most talented and motivated people in every market.

The same respect for identity supports the second pillar of Nissan’s commitment to Malaysia: our half-century partnership with Tan Chong.

A whole generation of Malaysians grew up with the “Datsun” brand. The next generation is now growing up knowing the Nissan brand. Despite this generational change, what has remained consistent is the superior service and focus on the customer that is the hallmark of Tan Chong.

Thanks to the efforts of Dato Tan and Dato Ang… Nissan-brand operations in Malaysia are efficient, growing… and closely integrated with our activities across ASEAN.

And that is what we need. If we can achieve efficiency, profitable growth and close collaboration with a partnership… we will continue to do so.

In fact, such alliances are at the core of our business model. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is based on mutual respect for the identity and interests of each partner. And the same is true with the Nissan-Tan Chong partnership.

The third pillar… is our firm belief in the benefits of regional integration through initiatives such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area.

By integrating 10 markets, AFTA creates a significant player in the regional and global economy.

Last year, across this region, we saw sales growth of 25% for Nissan. This year, with slower growth forecast for the mature markets… ASEAN stands out as an attractive and vibrant market place.

ASEAN is large enough to sustainably support fully localized production by multiple brands… competing to provide consumers with the best possible choice and value.

So we firmly support regional integration as a win-win proposition for Malaysia, for consumers and for business.

That’s what really matters: benefit to consumers.

And that’s why the fourth and most important pillar is our commitment to Malaysian consumers.

We will earn our place in Malaysia by bringing products closely attuned to their needs and desires…

…in terms of distinctive design, driving performance, friendly innovation, high quality and value.

And we will back our products with superior service through all phases of the ownership experience.

Already, we offer wide range of products in Malaysia:

..Sentra has been a perennial favorite.

..Latio and Latio Sport have been very well received.

..X-Trail is a multiple award winner

..The double-cab Frontier has been a best-seller in its segment

..And businesses across Malaysia rely on our two LCVs: the Vanette and Urvan

..Rounding out the line-up… March, Murano, 350Z and Cefiro offer customers a diverse and distinctive selection from the world of Nissan

For the future, we will continue to bring the best of Nissan to Malaysia. You have already shown your appreciation of the new Grand Livina and there is more to come.

Today, we are going to show you the new Sylphy sedan… which will be introduced later this year as an additional model in the Nissan line-up.

As we enter our second half-century in Malaysia… you can continue to expect the best from Nissan.

Terima kasih… thank you very much.

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FULL ETCM MEDIA RELEASE

New Products to boost Nissan’s growth in Malaysia

 

- New Sylphy sedan to be introduced second quarter of 2008 -

 

KUALA LUMPUR (21st March 2008) –Carlos Ghosn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nissan Motor Company Ltd., affirmed that strong products will be key for Nissan to achieve sustainable and profitable growth in Malaysia.

Speaking at a special preview of the Nissan Sylphy, Ghosn outlined that clear business goals, a well-timed and concrete product introduction strategy, and a well-established service operations network are key drivers behind the dynamic partnership between Nissan and local partner Tan Chong Motor.

“Tan Chong Motor has represented Nissan in Malaysia for the last fifty years and have consistently demonstrated superior service and a focus on the customer. In January, Nissan recorded its highest monthly sales in Malaysia since 1985 with 3,093 units. And with over 10,000 bookings for the Grand Livina, we can look forward to more growth to come,” said Ghosn.

Sales success, attributed mainly to new products that were introduced into Malaysia last year, will be the foundation on which further growth will be built. Nissan has been progressively expanding its product range in Malaysia with the introduction of new products including the Latio and Latio Sport, the Grand Livina, and the new Sylphy, which will arrive in the second quarter of this year.

“We will earn our place in Malaysia by bringing products closely attuned to the needs and desires of our consumers. These products, offering customers a diverse and distinctive selection from the world of Nissan, will be backed by superior service through all phases of the ownership experience.,” Ghosn continued.

Ghosn is visiting Malaysia on the invitation of Khazanah Nasional Berhad to speak at the Khazanah Global Lecture series.