YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan Motor Co. revised its outlook for regional growth on Thursday to account for softer demand in Japan and Europe, but stood by its promise of boosting global sales by 40 percent in the four years to next September.
Under the "Nissan 180" business plan announced in May 2002, Japan's second-biggest auto maker committed to selling 1 million more vehicles in the 12 months to September 2005 compared with fiscal 2001 levels, bringing total sales to 3.6 million units.
Of the 1 million, it had said 100,000 units would be added in Europe and 300,000 units each in the United States, Japan and general overseas markets, comprising all other markets.
But Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said sales in North America and the general overseas markets, or GOM, were stronger than it foresaw two years ago, while Europe and Japan were tougher.
Nissan now predicts sales to rise by 360,000 in the United States, 220,000 in Japan, 70,000 in Europe and 350,000 everywhere else, fuelled in large part by robust growth in China.
Ghosn stressed that Nissan's broader goal of adding 1 million units in sales was unchanged.
"The total commitment remains at 1 million units," the celebrity CEO said at an unveiling of the Murano crossover SUV (sport utility vehicle) and five other models in the port city of Yokohama, the site of Nissan's new headquarters from 2010.
Nissan, the world's most profitable car maker measured by profit margin, has already delivered the two other targets under the "180" plan: to secure an operating profit margin of at least 8 percent and eliminate all automotive debt.
"Some have doubted our ability to sell an additional million units, but we are confident that we have the plans and products necessary to do it, even though the contribution from each region will likely be different from what we originally planned," Ghosn said.
Analysts said the change to the sales breakdown was expected, adding the new distribution may mean higher profits, since markets like North America and China generally yielded high profits, while margins in Japan and Europe were typically lower.
"(The new breakdown) is probably better for profitability," said Christopher Richter, auto analyst at Merrill Lynch in Tokyo. He added that he expected Nissan to outdo its 1-million-unit growth target by 50,000 vehicles.
As part of its last sprint to drum up publicity and spur sales, Nissan on Thursday simultaneously unveiled six new cars to go on sale in Japan over the next four months.
Demand for Nissan's cars in Japan has been sluggish, falling for seven straight months through August. Excluding 660 cc minivehicles, its domestic sales slid 6.8 percent from the year before to 501,081 units in the January to August period.
"Between October 2003 and today, we didn't launch any cars in Japan, and we're paying the price for it," Ghosn said. "Now we're going to have six."
In contrast, sales in the United States are up 23 percent in the year to date thanks to a deluge of new models in the popular light trucks segment, including the Titan pickup and Armada SUV.
Its sales rose 7.3 percent in August, while overall industry sales fell by 5.4 percent.
The other cars unveiled on Thursday were the Tiida, Tiida Latio and Note compact cars, Fuga luxury sedan and Lafesta minivan.
Nissan, owned 44 percent by France's Renault SA, has said it would launch another 28 new models worldwide under the next medium-term plan starting in the business year from April 2005.