LOS ANGELES - Moving to put his house in order, new Nissan Division General Manager Michael Seergy says he will cut incentives, replace most brand advertising with product ads and train salespeople to sell product instead of price.
Those are the core elements of a program that Seergy says will position Nissan for future growth, even though sales in the fiscal year that began April 1 are projected to be off by 60,000 units to about 600,000.
The division's sales in April were down 26 percent from a year earlier and fell far short of the new monthly goal of 50,000 units, but Seergy said he is not going to apply knee-jerk incentives to blow out volume in May.
'I'm going to do it right. I'm not going to yield to (short-term) pressure,' Seergy, 43, said in an interview last week.
'Before you fix a problem, you've got to admit you had one. So we know where we went wrong. So basically our theme from this point forward is 'Back to basics.' '
CUTBACKS IN TENNESSEE
Seergy is launching his program as Nissan North America Inc. tries to control soaring inventories by shuttering its Smyrna, Tenn., plant for 24 days between now and early October.
Although tempting, given the sales slide, there will be no ads screaming lease deals for the Altima sedan and Frontier pickup. Ads will show the product and tell consumers why they should buy it - and price will not be the selling tool.
Nissan has joined the coupon war with $500 discount coupons sent to current Nissan owners in test markets of Miami, New York and Phoenix. But the test is less about joining the incentives battle and more about re-establishing contact with some of the 8 million Nissan owners in America whom the company ignored in its effort to extend its brand campaign, Seergy said.
'We're going to compete. We're just going to be smarter about it.'
SALES STAFF TRAINING
At the same time, Nissan is training dealership salespeople to get back in the habit of selling product instead of price. Pay-plan bonuses are aimed at keeping salespeople loyal as well.
How much time does he think he has for his plan before he gets called into the boss' office? He figures he has three or four months to show some results, or else he will be in trouble.
Meanwhile, the Smyrna plant will be closed for 24 days between now and October, involving the day shift every Friday and the night shift on Sunday night/Monday morning, said Nissan Motor Manufacturing U.S.A. spokesman Tom Groom.
Hourly workers will receive 90 percent of their pay for the four-day workweek, with the ability to earn the remaining 10 percent through accrued 'paid time off,' Groom said.
The Altima and Sentra sedans, 200SX coupe and Frontier pickup are built at Smyrna. The closures will cut output by about 50,000 units, meaning the plant will produce 300,000 vehicles this year, Groom said.
The bulk of the cuts involve the Sentra, which is nearing the end of its model cycle and is in the slow-selling subcompact segment.