NASHVILLE -- The Nissan Micra subcompact is inexpensive, fuel efficient, styled for European tastes and poised to make its North American debut -- but only in Canada.
Nissan hopes the Micra will spark entry-segment sales in Canada when it goes on sale in April as the company tries to gain Canadian market share.
Nissan's strategy derives from a split in Canadian tastes. The country's more populous eastern provinces tilt toward European preferences in cars, says Pierre Loing, Nissan vice president for North American product planning. So Nissan will replace its low-selling American-focused Versa sedan with the Micra -- styled and packaged with European consumers in mind.
"The Versa sedan didn't do well in Canada and we are stopping it now, with the introduction of the Micra," Loing says. "The Micra will be more to their liking."
The company said this month that the Micra will start at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $9,998 Canadian -- $1,900 less than the current Versa sedan in Canada -- or about $9,095 U.S.
The car features a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 109 hp and 107 pounds-feet of torque.
"We want to significantly improve our position in Canada. We believe part of the solution is to consider that Quebec and the eastern part represent a different kind of market, and adjust to that difference," Loing says.
"The eastern part of Canada is much more European-centric than western Canada, which is more in line with the U.S. buyers. They're much more biased for a hatchback in Canada, especially the eastern part."
In Canada, Nissan held a 4.7 percent market share at the end of 2013. The company wants an 8 percent global market share by March 2017.
In the United States, where Nissan seeks a 10 percent market share, the company's share is about 7.3 percent. In Mexico, where the Versa and the Canadian-market Micra will be built, Nissan's market share hovers at 25 percent.
Loing says Nissan considered also selling the Micra at its 1,100 U.S. dealerships, but decided to keep it out for two reasons. Bringing the car to U.S. regulatory specs would cost too much, he says. And adding it to the U.S. lineup would cannibalize the Versa, which is the best-selling subcompact in the United States.
Nissan sold 12,297 Versas in Canada last year, including the sedan and Versa Note hatchback, compared with 117,352 in the United States.