TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. will deliver its promise of selling 3.6 million vehicles in the year to next September, its top sales official said on Monday, brushing aside concerns that the target may not be achieved.
Under its "Nissan 180" business plan drawn up three years ago, Japan's second-biggest car maker has said it would sell 1 million more vehicles globally during the 12-month period compared with 2001 levels as one of three commitments to deliver profitable growth.
But with demand in certain markets such as Europe and China softer than initially expected, some industry watchers have begun to question the pledge's feasibility.
"We will definitely do 1 million vehicles more globally," Norio Matsumura, Nissan's executive vice president in charge of global marketing and sales as well as its Japan operations, told reporters at a roundtable gathering. "This is my responsibility."
Matsumura's upbeat remarks come at a time when even Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn -- who has always preached the need for management to deliver every commitment it makes -- has toned down the importance of achieving sales volume in a sign that he may be less certain about reaching the goal.
In late October, Ghosn told Reuters he would rather explain to shareholders that Nissan had failed to reach the volume goal but retained a high profit margin of over 10 percent, rather than "buy" volumes just to make good on his word.
Still, Matsumura, who insiders believe is among Ghosn's choices for chief operating officer when the latter takes on the added role of running partner Renault SA next April, said his team was monitoring and analysing sales data on a weekly basis to ensure the volume target was delivered.
"China is slightly below target, but we'll make up for that with a better performance in other markets," he said.
He added that the U.S. car market was resilient despite higher gasoline prices, projecting the overall market would total about 16.9 million units this year and about 17 million in 2005.
In early September, Nissan reiterated its 1-million-unit commitment but revised its outlook for regional expansion, predicting slower sales growth of 220,000 in Japan instead of 300,000, and 70,000 in Europe rather than 100,000.
On the other hand, U.S. growth would be stronger at 360,000 instead of 300,000, and at 350,000 units in the rest of the world which Nissan calls GOM, or general overseas markets, instead of 300,000.