They say the comeback is always stronger than the setback, and this is perhaps best exemplified by a global manufacturer in India – Nissan. Nissan has scripted a truly astonishing comeback with the all-new Magnite, which is winning awards and hearts nationwide. The big, bold, and beautiful SUV has been a runaway success since its launch. Despite Covid headwinds and a global semiconductor shortage, it touched the production of 50,000 units and crossed 1 lakh bookings in less than 15 months. Nissan has met this ever-increasing demand without compromising the quality of the product; it is a feat that Nissan has mastered over the years.

Today, we take a closer look at how India’s one of the favourite SUV is being made.Additionally, we will also share insights from Nissan’s top management responsible for scripting the Magnite success story.

Based on an advanced CMF-A+ platform, Magnite is manufactured at the Renault Nissan
Automotive India Private Limited (RNAIPL) plant in Oragadam Industrial Corridor, Chennai,
Tamil Nadu, which produces around 4.8 lakh cars per year. I was amazed at the gigantic
manufacturing facility that works in synergy with craftsmanship and automation.

Inside, we first witnessed the Mirror Bore Coating technology borrowed from the Nissan-GTR.The 1-litre turbo petrol is built on this technology that reduces engine friction and enhances the engine’s efficiency without ever compromising its performance. The manufacturing process starts with the stamping shop, where the raw metal is converted into body panels. The facility houses two kinds of stamping shops, where standard machines are used to stamp out smaller parts, and XL machines are used for larger body panels. And once the stamping is done, the body panels are thoroughly inspected before being sent to the body shop.

If you like to witness the marvel of modern engineering, the body shop is the place for you.
Here, the stamped-out parts are installed with precision onto the car’s body shell. Nissan has three lines for the body shop process, where the first one is fully automated. The second one is around 40-45 per cent automated, and the third one is manually operated. The body shop processes then make way for the powertrain assembly post, after which the car goes into final inspection and testing. Finally, after rollout, the cars gleam majestically in the parking area as they await delivery to dealers nationwide.

We interviewed two of the leading lights of the Magnite success story: Mr Biju Balendran, MD & CEO, RNAIPL, the first employee who laid the foundation of the plant and is now heading Nissan for India, and Mr Rakesh Srivastava, MD, Nissan Motor India, the architect of Magnite’s meteoric rise.

Mr Biju Balendran , MD&CEO – RNAIPL with Ramesh Somani , Chief Editor & Publisher – BBC TopGear India

Ramesh Somani: How much time does it take to manufacture the Magnite?
Biju Balendran: Well, that is a tough question to answer in terms of minutes. Stamping is batch production, where you produce the parts in batches. So, I don’t consider stamping as a part of the manufacturing process time. All-in-all, it takes around three to four shifts to build the product completely.

Ramesh Somani: How do you maintain the testing protocols for all the Magnite that are being manufactured?
Biju Balendran: We maintain standard testing checks throughout the process. Moreover, around 800 meters of testing is mandatory for all cars, and some cars go through two kilometres of testing on the track.

Ramesh Somani: How many Magnite are manufactured in a day?
Biju Balendran: The demand for the dual-colour option has lessened the production speed from the plant. Today, approximately 250 Magnite cars are being manufactured daily.

Ramesh Somani: How do you cope with the semiconductor issues?
Biju Balendran: We have a dedicated cross-functional team that works on sorting
semiconductor shortages. We try to strike a balance between situations wherein we have some semiconductors in abundance and some in scarcity. So, we try to change the line sequencing to make sure that those semiconductors are in abundance are given priority.

Ramesh Somani: How much percentage of Magnite is being localized?
Biju Balendran: The Magnite with the manual gearbox option is around 80-90 per cent
localized, whereas the CVT gearbox is imported. it is a little less localized than the manual
powertrain option.

Ramesh Somani: How environmentally friendly is the manufacturing plant?
Biju Balendran: We have a big solar parking area, which produces around 2-megawatts of
energy, and we are ambitiously looking forward to expanding it to 14-megawatts in the next two-three years. Moreover, the water used in manufacturing the car is almost 80 per cent rainwater.On top of that, we have around 25,000 trees around the factory to make it even more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Mr Rakesh Srivastava, MD – Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd

Ramesh Somani: How tough was it to launch a product in the midst of the pandemic, that too an important one?
Rakesh Srivastava : The launch of a new product is always a big opportunity to engage with newer sets of customers on a newer business model. Still, it also comes with its own challenges, and that challenge got amplified due to Covid-19. We were struggling to develop a connection with the customer and the internal R&D team due to the lockdown.

Ramesh Somani: How did you manage to cope with the challenges of Covid-19?
Rakesh Srivastava: We took various big and bold decisions to make our journey beautiful.Moreover, we emphasized on giving more value to our customers through rationalization and prioritization.

Ramesh Somani : Did Nissan pre-plan to export the Magnite globally?
Rakesh Srivastava:
Yes, it was part of the business strategy and plan.

Ramesh Somani:
Which is the second biggest market globally for the Magnite?
Rakesh Srivastava:
South Africa.

Ramesh Somani:
How much investment has been made to revive the factory?
Rakesh Srivastava:
Well, it is an alliance plant, where we have invested around INR 6000

Ramesh Somani:
What are Nissan’s plans for electric vehicles, and when can we expect the brand to bring out its electric Vehicles?
Rakesh Srivastava:
We are optimistic about the future of electric vehicles in India, and
currently, our entire global team is working on EVs. We are also closely following the trends and studying the scenario, and at the right time, the decision will be taken to bring EVs to India.