It was a good run. But now it’s time to put the tools back in the box and call it a day.
After almost eight years, the Nissan Almera sedan will stop being locally assembled effective March 2021, and with that, its assembly operations in Santa Rosa, Laguna, in partnership with Univation Motor Philippines Inc (UMPI) would also cease, bringing an important chapter in Nissan’s industrial history in the Philippines to a close.
The Nissan-UMPI partnership began producing the Almera in 2013, eventually rolling out 26,000 units starting 2014. Apparently, however, the sales volume of the Almera wasn’t enough to justify continuing local production.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, “Nissan has intimated that they already contemplated closing last year given weaker volume sales and low market share of the Almera. Almera sales usually account for 1 percent of the total vehicle market.”
Nissan Philippines Inc, however, assured that the closure of the local assembly of the Almera accounted for just a small part of the Japanese carmaker’s extensive operations in the country. In a brief statement to Inquirer Motoring sent this Friday, NPI stressed that Nissan was here to stay.
“As this manufacturing plant is owned and operated by UMPI, we were informed that UMPI is only ceasing its production of Nissan Almera in the country. UMPI will remain active in the Philippines and continue its other business operations in the country. We do not have information as to the next business of UMPI after the end of production of the Almera,” said the statement.
“With 133 workers affected by the end of production, UMPI is properly communicating the EOP (End of Production) implementation with its employees, as well as coordinating with various government stakeholders. UMPI is also preparing the compensation package for affected employees,” it added.
NPI also revealed that it currently has 48 Nissan dealerships nationwide, and “planning to open (up to) 6 more this year.”
It said, “We are ensuring the sufficiency of not just the Nissan Almera units as well as our product line up and spare parts availability to meet our customer’s demands. The Philippines also continues to be a key market for Nissan globally, and the company remains committed in providing our customers innovative products and excellent services through our dealerships nationwide. Nissan remains committed to our investments in the Philippines and working with our dealer partners in providing innovative products and excellent services to our customers.
“NPI continues to operate its business in the Philippines. We are here to stay. The decision to halt the Nissan Almera production locally was decided between NPI and UMPI upon the expiration of the vehicle assembly contract between the two companies. The decision is aligned with Nissan’s plan towards optimized production and efficient business operations in the Asean region, as part of the Nissan NEXT transformation plan.”
The NPI-UMPI contract originally expired in March 2019, but both companies agreed to an extension.
Meanwhile, Reuters in Tokyo reported on Jan. 1 that Nissan Motor was planning to close its Avila plant in Spain and convert it into a warehouse, and would outsource the sales and manufacturing of its cars to alliance partner Renault.
Asked if the DTI’s safeguard measure, or new taxes on imported completely built units (CBUs), were imposed much earlier and helped the Almera compete in volume sales, would the so-called NEXT transformation plan still have pulled the plug on the Almera local assembly in PH, NPI would not reply directly. Instead, it said, “The decision (to halt local assembly) is aligned with Nissan’s plan towards optimized production and efficient business operations in the Asean region, as part of the Nissan NEXT transformation plan,” adding that Nissan’s marketing and distribution in the country of its models—including its remaining core vehicles the Navara, Urvan, and Terra—would continue through imports from its Thailand and Japan manufacturing sites, among others.
Lawyer Rommel Gutierrez, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (Campi), told Inquirer Motoring: “NPI’s decision to cease assembly operation highlights the importance of government support to local manufacturing/assembly of motor vehicles. The rationalization of production operations in the Asian region takes into account the competitiveness of local operations. The remaining local assemblers need more support to stay competitive without undermining regional complementation on the supply chain, among others. There should be a balance between complete knocked-down (CKD) operation and imports of CBUs for local plants to survive. CKD operation cannot survive without a combination of CBU importation. The industry and government should work together towards a more progressive policy to preserve the remaining local vehicle assembly/manufacturing in the Philippines.”