- After Thailand's Siam Motors, Tan Chong is the second Nissan distributor in Southeast Asia to invest into a Chinese marque
- Nissan is not paying enough attention to Southeast Asia
- With CKD investments, Tan Chong wants to grow GAC into a 50k annual sales brand, back to the level Nissan was doing in the early 2010s
The recent signing with Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) could be a sign of bigger things to come for the Tan Chong group, whose subsidiary Edaran Tan Chong Motor's (ETCM) Nissan business is faltering, itself a mirror of Nissan's poor performance in the rest of Southeast Asia.
During a speech given by Tan Keng Meng, CEO of WTC Automotif (sister company of ETCM), he mentioned that over the next 3 to 5 years, investments to CKD GAC vehicles will bring sales and production to 50,000 units.
That’s a massive jump in production and sales, as Tan Chong Motor Holding Berhad’s annual report mentioned that ETCM sold 13,785 units last year. Tan Chong’s sales have been on a downward trend for nearly a decade now.
Also Read: Here’s why Nissan won’t take away Tan Chong Motor’s distributorship rights in Malaysia
10 years ago, ETCM’s sales peaked at 53,156 units, enough for the company to secure itself as the second best-selling non-national marque behind Toyota. Over the next couple of years, Tan Chong’s sales continue to plummet, reaching as low as 13,785 in 2022.
It’s unfair to solely blame Tan Chong for its poor performance, as Nissan itself has not been supportive in the South East Asian region. Unlike Honda and Toyota which have been offering region-specific, competitive models, Nissan’s lack of models is evident.
In the increasingly-popular smaller B-segment crossover segment, both Honda and Toyota offer highly-competitive models, such as the Honda WR-V, Toyota Raize, Daihatsu Rocky. Nissan does offer a small-sized crossover called the Kicks, but that model isn't selling very well due to its high price. Availability is also limited to Thailand, Singapore, and Philippines.
Furthermore, Nissan has also closed down its plant in Indonesia, scaling down its operations to a mostly of its imported (CBU) models-only line-up; the sole locally-assembled (CKD) model is the Nissan Livina, which is made by Mitsubishi Motors and is a rebadged Mitsubishi Xpander.
It’s a similar story in Thailand, as Nissan has lost its market share in the Kingdom. Nissan used to sell more vehicles than Honda, but has since lost market share, even to Chinese marques.
Last year, specifically in Thailand's lucrative pick-up truck segment, the Nissan Navara sold poorly, amounting to a mere 5,314 units. By comparison, Isuzu D-Max and Toyota Hilux's montly sales outsold the Navara's annual sales.
Siam Motors, the previous distributor for Nissan there, has since switched its business to BYD. Nissan took over the distribution rights from Siam Motors in 2004, but sales in subsequent years became even worse after they took over.
Also Read: Ex-Nissan Thailand distributor to launch BYD in the Kingdom on 8-Aug
Seeing the diminishing presence of Nissan in neighbouring countries, Tan Chong is taking proactive steps to diversify its business beyond Nissan, hopes that its new partnership with GAC can help them claw back precious market share.
GAC and Tan Chong will be cooperating for the introduction of right-hand drive GAC models, including sedans, MPVs, and SUVs.
As a sign that GAC takes this partnership seriously, GAC has stated that all-new models will be simultaneously developed for both right- and left-hand drive formats, ensuring that Malaysian consumers receive the latest models at the same rate as other global markets.