Weak Nissan, strong Infiniti results leaves Nissan N.A. off slightly

Nissan’s year-to-date sales have now exceeded 1 million vehicles, the first time the company has crossed that mark just eight months into the year. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Nissan North America reported a slight drop in U.S. sales in August, as lower car sales offset strong performances by the Rogue crossover, the Altima sedan and the Infiniti luxury brand.

Overall, the automaker’s sales declined 0.8 percent to 133,351 cars and light trucks, with the Nissan brand registering a 2 percent drop, to 122,716 units, and Infiniti seeing its sales leap 16 percent to 10,635.

Fred Diaz, the Nissan brand’s senior vice president for sales and marketing, shrugged off the setback, noting that Nissan’s year-to-date sales have now exceeded 1 million vehicles, the first time the company has crossed that mark just eight months into the year.

“The Rogue had its best month ever, and our crossovers continue to sell extremely well,” he said.

Rogue sales rose 29 percent to 27,655, while sales of the midsize Murano crossover increased 3.7 percent to 5,800 vehicles. The Altima defied the downward trend in midsize cars as its sales came in at 32,327 -- up 0.5 percent or 174 units over August 2014. By comparison, sales of the Honda Accord fell 20 percent and the Toyota Camry sales dropped 11 percent.

Other than those three models, though, the Nissan lineup showed little strength. Even with low gasoline prices, sales of the Frontier SUV dropped 46 percent to 3,645 and those of the Pathfinder SUV declined 11 percent to 7,054. Sales of the Sentra, the brand’s third-best seller, slid 9 percent to 15,662.

Diaz said the Frontier has been slowed by limited production at the company’s Canton, Miss., plant. “If we had more, we would sell more,” he said.

He added that Nissan has made modifications at the plant to increase the Frontier supply and said “dealers are about to get a slew” of Frontiers starting by the end of September.

Infiniti drew strength from sales of its QX60 crossover and Q50 sedan. Their sales rose 54 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Even with the decline, August’s total rated as Nissan North America’s eight best all-time in the U.S. It also came in comparison to a strong year-earlier month, when Labor Day was early in September and sales tied to the holiday launched in the final week or so of August 2014. This year, August had 26 selling days, one less than a year ago.

You can reach Neal E. Boudette at NBoudette@crain.com -- Follow Neal E. on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nealboudette

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