NASHVILLE -- Nissan North America will stray from the discount-deal marketing pitch adopted late last year when a sinking economy kept consumers away from U.S. dealerships.
A TV ad campaign that begins today will tout the loftier messages of safety, quality and performance.
The shift suggests the automaker believes shoppers -- or at least those who are considering the Nissan brand -- are not as wary of committing to a vehicle purchase as they were in the fourth quarter.
Nissan's U.S. sales fell 35.7 percent in the last three months of the year as industrywide demand plunged amid the longest recession since the early 1980s.
As part of the campaign, dubbed "Look Closer, Nissan Delivers," the automaker is phasing out 0.0 percent loan rates, except on its shrinking supply of 2008 models. Its Sentra and low-end Versa 1.6, which stickers for $10,685, including freight -- still will come with 0.9-percent/60-month loan options.
In November and December, Nissan's advertising hammered the message of $199 lease deals and interest-free loans on five key models: the Altima, Rogue, Sentra, Versa and Murano.
"We feel that 0.0 is something we can still come back to, but only if necessary," Erich Marx, Nissan North America's director of marketing communications and media, said in an interview Wednesday.
Marx said Nissan will continue advertising $199/39-month leasing programs on the Altima sedan and Rogue crossover in the early installments of the new ad campaign. Loan rates for those models are now 2.9 percent.
When Nissan's new fiscal year begins April 1, the ads will shift to product-specific messages.
"Given what's going on in the economy, that's going to be a challenge," he said. "But we don't see 2009 being a business climate for balloons and tent sales. We want to get consumers to look closer at the entire brand, at issues like crash-test safety and third-party ratings."