Nissan sets records as 4 key nameplates climb

Nissan Division tallied 124,207 sales last month, up 18 percent from a year earlier and a December record. Its year ended with a record 1,351,420 sales, up 6.4 percent from 2014.

NASHVILLE -- The Nissan brand rose to record U.S. sales in December and 2015 on the backs of four nameplates -- the Rogue, the 2015 Sentra, Versa and Murano.

It got there without the help of two ambitiously freshened products -- the 2016 Sentra and Altima, Nissan’s traditional volume champion.

Neither ’16 model reached showrooms in meaningful numbers before the year ended, says Dan Mohnke, Nissan Division vice president for U.S. marketing operations.

“But I believe all the buzz from the new products helped bring people into our showrooms,” Mohnke says.

Nissan Division tallied 124,207 sales last month, up 18 percent from a year earlier and a December record. Its year ended with a record 1,351,420 sales, up 6.4 percent from 2014.

Sentra compact car sales rose 28 percent last month to 19,760 and Versa subcompact car volume climbed 21 percent to 11,058 -- December sales records for both nameplates.

Including the luxury Infiniti brand, Nissan North America posted record sales of 1,484,918 cars and light trucks for 2015.

Infiniti reported sales of 133,498 for the year, an increase of 14 percent. Several Infiniti nameplates gained ground during the year, but none as much as the QX50 compact crossover. Re-engineered with a roomier rear seat in the fourth quarter of 2015, the QX50 doubled its volume for the year to 5,468. In December, the perennially low-selling QX50 posted a 549 percent increase to 1,453 sales.

“The QX50 has come to the market at the right time,” says Randy Parker, vice president of Infiniti Americas. “That’s the fastest growing segment of premium space.

“When you get the right product with the right price point to the market at the right time, you can produce magic.”

Similarly, the Rogue compact crossover has been stealing the show for Nissan Division. Rogue’s sales jumped 44 percent in 2015 to 287,190.

Mohnke says that Nissan began receiving additional Rogue production from Japan this month and anticipates additional sales in 2016.

Mohnke emphasized that fleet deliveries were not a significant factor in Nissan’s year-end increases.

“It was average fleet business for us,” he says. We didn’t have a shift in strategy.

“A lot of fleet business is timed to when new models come out, so we’re starting to fulfill orders of 2016 models. But everything in moderation is the key. It’s a good business, but you’ve got to be disciplined.”

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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