Aging Altima lifts Nissan brand 15%, but Infiniti slips 10%
A strong push behind the aging Altima helped lift Nissan Division sales 15 percent in March to 126,132 cars and trucks.
Altima sales surged 27 percent to 41,050 units for the month, a record for the car.
But sales at the Infiniti luxury brand fell 10 percent to 10,185, leaving Nissan North America's total March sales up 13 percent at 136,317 units.
With the exception of the Infiniti JX crossover, which was new to showrooms in March, every nameplate in the Infiniti lineup registered lower sales in March compared with the previous year.
The Nissan brand also posted strong results for the Versa and Maxima cars, Rogue crossover, Quest minivan and Frontier pickup. But it was the Altima -- a model at the end of its product cycle -- that captured consumers' attention in March. That was in part because of a $179-a-month lease offer, designed to help clear out current stocks before a redesigned Altima arrives.
Altima's sales were only 1,518 shy of the industry's No. 1 car, the Toyota Camry.
"This was a monster month for Altima," says Al Castignetti, Nissan vice president for sales and marketing. "We're running after that car, and we plan to be very aggressive with it for the next three months as we go through build-out in preparation for the new model."
A redesigned Altima will be launched in late June.
Castignetti attributes the good results to two factors: rising consumer confidence and rising gasoline prices.
"People are seeing fuel prices go up and they're coming in to trade in their old vehicles," Castignetti says. "They're seeing all these ads promoting 30 miles per gallon and higher, and they want to get out of their old technology."
He adds that rising consumer confidence also is helping.
"The economy is creating jobs and people are comfortable. Traffic is up and people are buying," he says.
"People have been reluctant to say this out loud, but the industry is starting to feel good again."
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