Nissan, Infiniti report solid sales gains

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Nissan moved forward on multiple fronts in March, bucking meek industry gains to score its best sales month in history.

The results lifted Nissan past Honda Division for the third straight month, encouraging Nissan in its publicly declared goal to displace Honda as the industry’s No. 2 import brand.

Nissan Motor Corp.’s Infiniti luxury brand, meanwhile, posted a 13 percent sales increase in March from a year earlier, to 12,494 vehicles.

Nissan Division sold 136,642 vehicles in March, up 8 percent over March 2013. The Rogue and Juke crossovers and the electric Leaf also set sales records for the month.

Fred Diaz, senior vice president for Nissan sales, marketing, parts and service, said the March results demonstrate that Nissan’s brand appeal is broadening beyond dependence on one or two big-selling models, such as the Altima.

He noted that Nissan achieved a record month even though Altima sales fell slightly in March. Pathfinder sales also fell back by 13 percent.

“We don’t want to be a one-pony brand,” Diaz says.

Altima’s 5 percent decline occurred for two reasons, Diaz says: Nissan has discontinued sales of the Altima coupe, which accounted for about 2,000 sales last March; and it has cut Altima fleet deliveries by 39 percent since March 2013.

Despite the changes, Altima showroom demand was strong for the month, he adds.

ALG Inc., the firm that sets vehicle residual values for the industry, estimated this week that Nissan incentives averaged $2,889 per vehicle in March, making it the highest incentive level of any non-Detroit 3 brand.

Diaz confirmed that ALG’s estimate is close to the mark. But he said Nissan achieved its record March results after decreasing its per-car incentive spend by $600 since last March. And Nissan incentive levels remain flat since February, he adds.

“Our incentives are well below industry average,” Diaz says. “We’ve done a good job of taking our medicine and lowering our incentive spend as we continue to see our models resonate in the marketplace. We’re not going the opposite direction.”

For Infiniti, volume was driven by the Q50 sedan, which was not available a year ago, and by gains for the seven-passenger QX60 crossover.

The crossover’s 3,340 sales represented a 27 percent increase from March 2013.

Infiniti’s older G37 sedan -- which originally was to be replaced by the Q50 -- declined 56 percent in March, to 2,001 sales. But the two entry-segment sedans combined for sales of 5,796 -- a 28 percent increase over G37 volume in March 2013.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.


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