Nissan Europe goes on the offensive

Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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There has never been a better time for Nissan to go on the offensive in Europe.

The Leaf electric car is the reigning European Car of the Year; the NV200 won International Van of the Year honors in 2010; Nissan sales in Europe including Russia rose 13 percent last year to 547,000 units; the company's market share is at its highest level since 1995 (3.1 percent).

Given those facts, it makes sense that Nissan is now publicly saying that Toyota better watch its back.

Toyota surpassed Nissan as the best-selling Japanese brand in Europe in 1998, but Nissan believes it can take the crown back within three years. It is bullish because of its young lineup (10 new or refreshed models have debuted since March 2010) and fast-growing dealer network (400 new sales points will be active within three years).

Toyota remains vulnerable because of its image-damaging global safety recall of 19.2 million vehicles since autumn 2009.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that Toyota sold 750,746 cars in Europe (including Turkey and Russia) last year. The automaker is also just three years removed from achieving peak sales of 1.2 million vehicles in the region.

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