NASHVILLE -- Nissan Division's sales rose 15 percent in April, but Infiniti's slipped 6 percent as the two brands came down from torrid March sales events.
Nissan's sales also reflected the shift to more fuel-efficient models, in a trend that is expected to gain further ground as gasoline prices rise around the country.
Nissan Division closed April with 64,765 car and truck sales, up from 56,558 in April 2010. The luxury Infiniti brand sold 6,761 for the month, down from 7,211 in April 2010.
Sales of a number of Nissan-brand models declined as consumer interest turned to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Maxima sales fell more than 30 percent to 3,397, and sales of the Murano crossover declined 17 percent to 3,329. By contrast, the line's aging Sentra small car saw a 42 percent rise in sales, leaving Nissan with only a 20-day supply going into May.
"We have been keeping an eye on this for several months, and you can now see that there's clearly a shift to fuel-efficient vehicles," said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division's vice president of sales.
The brand's body-on-frame trucks also were hit by the market shift. Titan pickup sales fell 30 percent, and sales of the Xterra SUV fell 34 percent.
Ben Poore, vice president of the Infiniti Business Unit, said manufacturing and supply disruptions from the March 11 earthquake in Japan were not a factor in Infiniti's April sales decline. He said the larger issue was the month's comparison to unusually strong April 2010 sales.
Most Infiniti models declined from a year ago, except for the QX56 SUV, which rose 74 percent to 976 units.
Poore said Infiniti currently has an 80-day supply in the United States and will not be hurt by factory interruptions in Japan, where all the brand's products are built.
"For the next few months, it's going to be a story of availability for the industry," Poore said. "The winners are going to be the people with good inventories, and Infiniti is in very good shape."