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Nissan NP200 on its way out – And there’s no replacement in sight

Nissan made a big announcement this year when it confirmed that the incredibly-popular NP200 will soon be retired.

The NP200 has been one of South Africa’s best-selling vehicles for years, thanks in no small part to the fact that it is effectively the only model left in its segment.

It is a half-tonne, single-cab bakkie that clocks in at a starting price of R234,000, which has made it the perfect choice for small businesses, independent contractors, and anyone else in need of a pickup’s utility without breaking the bank.

Despite the clear value that vehicles of this class have to offer, South Africa’s list of options has dwindled over the years to this single unit, meaning that when the NP200 finally ceases production in March 2024, motorists will have no new models to choose from.

Complicating matters is the fact that Nissan and its alliance partners, Mitsubishi and Renault, had a replacement in the works – widely expected to be a rebadged Renault Oroch – but this plan has been put on hold as the bakkie was meant to be built in Russia which is not currently possible anymore due to the “geopolitical situation,” the company announced.

Consequently, Nissan South Africa has entered a consultation and restructuring phase as it decides on its next move following the NP200’s discontinuation, with no replacement currently confirmed.

Other candidates?

With no clear replacements for the half-tonne Nissan in sight, other carmakers may have to step in to fill what is clearly a popular but under-served market segment.

One candidate may be Stellantis, which recently announced its intention to build a factory in South Africa that would produce a new bakkie.

For those who are not aware, Stellantis is a fairly new player in the auto industry that functions as a parent company for several brands including Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot, Ram, and Vauxhall.

For now, the conglomerate has stated its intention to create a 1-tonne model in South Africa, meaning something like the Peugeot Landtrek is a likely candidate, but given the number of nameplates under its wing, it’s not a stretch to think that the new factory could expand to include a new entry in the under-populated compact light commercial category.

Even if this turns out not to be the case, Stellantis’ new factory indicates it has plans for expansion in this country, which could also mean the importing of new vehicles previously reserved for other markets.

In this regard, Fiat appears to be a strong contender with options like the Toro, which at the moment is limited to South America. Power in the Toro is supplied by a 1.3-litre, turbo-petrol plant with 136kW and 270Nm, giving it a load capacity of up to 1,000kg.

Disappointingly, there is also one manufacturer who appeared to have a promising candidate, but who has since confirmed that it will not be bringing it to South Africa; this being VW and its Saveiro bakkie.

The Saveiro is exclusive to Latin America and runs on a 1.6-litre petrol motor with 79kW and 151Nm, which lets it carry 664kg in the back.

VW’s official statement was that, because the Saveiro is exclusively left-hand drive, it could not justify the conversion process for a model that it expects will sell in small numbers locally.

The upshot of these recent announcements is it appears the NP200’s departure will leave a big hole in the South African market, and it is unclear when this gap may be filled.

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