By Lawrence Papoff
$9,998 is a sticker price that’s hard to ignore. Nissan Canada hopes that will lure a variety of new customers to Nissan dealers’ showrooms.
“Part of the Micra equation is the aggressive price and value,” Andrew Wilton, Nissan Canada’s chief sales/marketing told Canadian AutoWorld.
Wilton, who runs the Micra marketing campaign, said it’s not a gimmick.
“We knew that if we offered that, we would get a lot of customers who had previously been considering a used car or didn’t think car ownership was for them.
“That could be a grad or a new Canadian who might have looked at a used car. They can now get a new car with a full warranty and the reliability that comes with a new car,” Wilton said.
But David Williams, senior sales and marketing manager for Nissan Canada Finance, insisted the campaign is built around more than just an irresistible sticker price.
He is responsible for seeing to it that the captive’s financial service managers know how to navigate the captive’s finance programs.
“We worked closely with the product side to see to it that there was a full program of financing options.”
Williams points to the Micra’s Opportunity Program, the Grad Program, the First-Timer Program, and the New Canadian Program.
The captive takes on subprime finance companies with the first offering, aimed as it is at the “credit-challenged” buyer. Instead of the double-digit interest rates, the customer gets a 48-month lease or 60-month loan with 9.98 per cent interest on both.
“These customers would go to near-prime or subprime finance companies at higher rates,” he explained. “We saw this as an opportunity to help get customers credit re-established and then they can move on through our lineup.”
He’s confident the risk of taking on this customer is reduced because the customer gets a new car and a new-car warranty.
“Reliability is key here. The customer knows exactly what they are getting with no unexpected repairs or accident damage,” he said.
He cautions that not every applicant is a deadbeat.
“What drives the category is the credit score. We work with the customer to find the whole story and that might mean going up to a higher (credit) category,” and a larger car.
He said 10 per cent of the financing applications on the Micra page of the automaker’s web site are for the Opportunity Program.
“We approve over 80 per cent of them.”
The Grad Program isn’t new to Nissan Finance but Williams said the take rate is up because it’s tied to the vehicle.
Basically, it’s aimed at recent grads with a job. Grads who qualify get one quarter to one per cent shaved off the posted rate or $500 off. Dealers kick in with four free oil changes.
The First-Timer Program is almost an identical twin to the Grad Program. Its goal is to help someone – often a grad, but not always – who has no credit history. If they’ve got a good job, say at a law or accounting firm, they could find themselves at the wheel of Versa, Sentra or Rogue.
The financial limit is $30,000.
Last on tap is the New Canadian Program, which offers credit for the purchase of most of the automaker’s lineup.
To qualify, the newcomer must be a permanent resident or have a work or study visa or diplomat status.
Wilton points out that if one program doesn’t fit, sales and F&I staff are taught to try to fit the customer into another one.
“The flexibility of the captive finance programs means that you can find one to fit almost anyone who comes to the showroom.”
“When we went out to train dealers on the Micra, the programs became part of the national training programs to make sure everyone at the dealerships would know how to fit them to each Micra customer who comes into the showroom.”
Marketing uses the usual channels and some newer ones, including social media to reach the grads and first time buyers.
The Nissan Finance logo with the programs listed under has drawn attention on the Micra splash or landing page on the automaker’s website, he said.
The programs have opened doors in the ethnic market as well.
Williams said “We put brochures in driver licensing offices and the ethnic press and high traffic websites that cater to new Canadians.
“We are identifying the high-traffic websites that new Canadians go to before coming here.”