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Christian Meunier, president of Nissan Canada, presented the 2015 Nissan Micra at the Montreal auto show last month. (Nissan)
Christian Meunier, president of Nissan Canada, presented the 2015 Nissan Micra at the Montreal auto show last month. (Nissan)

Vive la différence

Canada’s diversity a challenge for auto makers Add to ...

While certainly not Americans, we’re not all entirely alike as Canadians, either, and this stunned Christian Meunier.

The president of Nissan Canada, born in Paris and married to an American, is the former president of Nissan Brazil and, before that, head of Nissan’s marketing in the United States. He arrived at Nissan’s Canadian head office in Mississauga with a multicultural, multinational, multilingual point of view. Yet still, “I was shocked by the diversity,” he says.

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All the world thinks of Canada as a peaceful, polite, homogeneous place, but our multicultural diversity presents a challenge for marketing a car.

Any auto maker hoping to sell cars here must understand and react to the desires and needs of the Canadian marketplace, with its small, culturally-varied population spread across the globe’s second largest country by land mass. That means having the right vehicles packaged in the right way and at the right price.

Smart enough to know that he didn’t know enough about Canada, Meunier spent the first six months on the job last year travelling the country, walking the streets and meeting with Nissan and Infiniti dealers. Meunier learned that we’re all over the map – literally and culturally.

“Region by region, city by city, this country is very, very diverse,” he says.

That sentiment is reflected in car buying trends. In the Prairies – particularly Alberta – we buy lots of big pickups and pay cash for them. In Quebec, small cars with $200 monthly payments rule.

Luxury cars and light trucks are sold almost entirely in the biggest and richest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Vancouverites favour imports. And in the manufacturing heartland of Ontario, we buy a lot of vehicles from the Detroit Three (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler).

We are certainly all Canadians, but we not at all alike when it comes to what we drive.

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