Nissan hits all-time high

Inventories of the popular Rogue compact crossover -- which has been an engine of growth for Nissan over the past two years -- are getting tight for dealers. Nissan is currently preparing a third factory line to bring more Rogues to U.S. dealerships. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

Nissan North America posted its biggest sales month ever, selling 163,559 cars and trucks in March, despite tight inventories of the Nissan brand’s two top-selling models.

Deliveries at the Nissan brand rose 13 percent to 149,784, with sharply higher volume for the Sentra, Maxima and Murano. Infiniti sales increased 10 percent to 13,775 thanks to big sales gains for the Q50 compact luxury car and the re-engineered QX50 crossover.

Unlike previous months, where surging crossover sales have lifted Nissan and other brands, March produced across-the-board gains for the automaker.

Sales of the redesigned 2017 full-size Titan pickup rose 22 percent, even though the company has so far only produced and marketed a high-end, V-8 diesel version. Sales of the compact Sentra car jumped 23 percent to 26,201 in March.

“That tells me that it’s the entire brand that’s rising,” said Judy Wheeler, Nissan’s vice president for U.S. sales. “It’s not just one thing -- it’s our truck, it’s our compact car, it’s our crossovers.”

Wheeler noted that volume at Nissan’s car portfolio increased 17 percent during the month, despite industry talk of a general shift away from traditional sedans.

But the brand was restrained on two fronts in March. Inventories of the popular Rogue compact crossover -- which has been an engine of growth for Nissan over the past two years -- are getting tight for dealers. Nissan is currently preparing a third factory line to bring more Rogues to U.S. dealerships.

“We need more Rogues,” Wheeler said.

The Altima sedan has also been in relatively short supply in recent weeks as Nissan sells out 2015 models and brings on a substantially freshened 2016 car. That model hand-off was still taking place in March, as sales of the nameplate rose 8.9 percent to 34,856 sales.

Infiniti is also eager for more inventory of some models, including the volume-leading Q50 sedan, says Randy Parker, Infiniti vice president for the Americas. Sales of the model jumped 43 percent to 5,590 in March.

At the same time, demand for Infiniti’s small crossover, the QX50, jumped 597 percent, to 1,512.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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