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Nissan drives small nameplates to record sales

Nissan Group posted record U.S. sales for 2014, selling 1,386,895 cars and trucks for an 11 percent gain. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

NASHVILLE -- Big volume increases among Nissan’s smaller nameplates -- the Sentra, Versa, Rogue and Frontier pickup -- led the brand to a record U.S. sales year in 2014.

Nissan brand reported sales of 1,269,565 vehicles for the year, a 12 percent gain over 2013. Nissan Group also posted record U.S. sales for 2014, selling 1,386,895 cars and trucks for an 11 percent gain.

Rather than changing the industry’s model mix, falling U.S. gasoline prices are helping to invigorate sales of autos in general, says Fred Diaz, Nissan brand’s senior vice president for U.S. sales and marketing and operations.

“Lower gas prices made people feel better about buying,” Diaz says. “People feel more secure in their jobs now. The economic indicators are all pointing in the right direction.”

Sales of the Sentra rose 42 percent in 2014, the Versa increased 19 percent and the Rogue improved 22 percent. The electric Leaf posted a 34 percent sales gain for 2014.

Diaz says a tight supply is holding back Rogue sales. The automaker’s new U.S. assembly line is operating at capacity, and Nissan dealers are requesting larger inventories of the vehicle’s lower-end package, the Rogue Select.

Diaz estimates it will take another 60 days to increase the flow of Rogues.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says that in a year of sizable sales gains across the industry, “Nissan did better than most.

“The automaker hit a record, both in December and for the entire year, primarily on the strength of its small cars and compact Rogue,” Brauer says.

But Nissan’s volume-leading Altima also rose during the year, increasing 5 percent to 335,644 sales for 2014.

Sales at the luxury Infiniti brand rose less than 1 percent for the year to 117,330, with all nameplates except the Q50 sedan and QX50 crossover declining from 2013.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@autonews.com

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