Nissan is beginning the new year with a new compact crossover that will launch in Latin America but has truly global ambitions.
The mid- and compact-size SUV market is about to become the most competitive segment in the automotive universe, and with its latest model, the Kicks, Nissan is hoping not just to stay ahead of its rivals, but to get Latin America as excited about crossovers as drivers north of the border by building a car carefully tailored to their style.
"The Kicks will bring Nissan's unique Crossover expertise to more regions," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. The new model is based on a concept car first unveiled at the 2014 Sao Paulo Motor Show and has been developed by designers in Brazil and Japan.
"When our team from Nissan Brazil team collaborated with our colleagues in Japan to create the Kicks concept vehicle, which was inspired by our country and culture, the result was extraordinary," said Francois Dossa, president of Nissan Brazil.
"With Nissan Kicks, we will go beyond the obvious to pack a punch with a strong design statement and the performance that our customers crave," said José Valls, chairman of Nissan Latin America.
Nissan won't be taking the wraps off the official production version until later this year but promises that the Kicks will have more in common with the concept cousin than just a nameplate. Development has been guided by the region's culture and once on sale, Latin America will serve as an on-going test bed so that the car can be continually tweaked and evolved to appeal equally to other customers in other regions around the globe.
Nissan launched its first crossover, the Murano, in 2003, and there is no denying that its following models like the Qashqai, Rogue and Juke have been hugely successful in driving the concept of the crossover into the mass market mainstream and in creating panic among competitors.
And the vehicle type only appears to be gaining more ground. As Chris Bangle, BMW's former design chief and the man behind the brand's 1999 X5 luxury crossover (or Sports Activity Vehicle as the company dubbed it) notes: "It is clear that the SUV together with its iterations is more than here to stay; it is here to conquer -- no brand is complete without it in the portfolio."