Detroit's an unexcused absence for Nissan

Nissan North America says it will come back to the Detroit auto show in 2012.

Returning for 2011 would have been better.

Nissan is now America's fifth largest auto brand. Yet the company continues to sit out the biggest and highest profile auto show in North America.

There was a reasonable argument to be made back in November 2008 when company officials said they would pull out of Detroit for 2009. Businesses everywhere took drastic steps to preserve cash any way they could at the time. The end of the world seemed to be upon us.

But two years later, the fire is out – especially for Nissan. The automaker's profits are back, Nissan and Infiniti sales are rocking, market share is up for both brands, and the company is investing more in its North American operations and bringing out new products.

Nothing new to display? Hardly. There is a soon-to-launch Quest minivan, a new Murano convertible and a new commercial van. And for that matter, few consumers east of the Mississippi or north of the Ohio have glimpsed the electric Leaf that went on sale less than a month ago.

Too busy to be here? Even though the company is not “in” the show, its executives are nonetheless “at” the show, using the international gathering to meet with reporters off the show floor, without the expense of an exhibition booth.

If Nissan were a schoolchild, the school truancy officer might characterize all this as simply playing hooky.