NEW YORK -- Nissan Motor Co. will invest heavily in the United States in the next few years, aiming for a 10 percent market share and focusing product plans around larger volumes of fewer models.
"The most important element is having enough cars with big volumes, not multiplying the number of products that we have," Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told Automotive News last week. "We need a limited number of cars with very big volumes to sustain the brand."
Through October, only the Nissan Altima was ranked in the top 10 for vehicle sales by nameplate, while sales of 19 of 23 Nissan and Infiniti nameplates were below 50,000 units.
Nissan's goal is to grab a 10 percent share of a 14 million-unit U.S. market within three years.
That would be a 54 percent sales increase over last year's total of 908,570 units sold by Nissan and Infiniti in the United States.
Nissan, which is profitable in North America, has proven it can increase market share. Just two years ago the Nissan brand held 6.6 percent of the U.S. market. Today it has 7.4 percent. Nissan and Infiniti U.S. sales through October rose 15 percent, to 856,425. That tied Nissan North America for fourth place among automakers in percentage increase.
Ghosn, interviewed in New York during a stop on his way to Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tenn., also hinted at refocusing the Nissan product portfolio.
"Our product offering is pretty complete now. My concern is not 'Do we have holes in our product lineup' but 'Do we have overlaps in our product offerings?'" he said. "We do have overlaps, and every time we replace two cars by one that means filling some overlaps and come up with a better concept."
He added: "A lot of cars with small volumes doesn't work. I want cars with big volumes."
Meanwhile, the Infiniti luxury brand will add several models in segments where it sees opportunity in global markets.
Ghosn also said:
-- No decision has been made on plans by Nissan and Daimler AG to assemble passenger vehicles jointly in Mexico for sale mainly in North America.
Media reports last week indicated -- incorrectly, Ghosn said -- that the decision had been made and that a $2 billion plant with annual production capacity of around 200,000 vehicles would open in the first half of 2014.
Ghosn said a decision would not be made until the Renault-Nissan board meets in December. Nissan and Renault formed an alliance with Daimler in April 2010 under which they agreed to develop cars and engines.
"Everybody knows that Nissan needs capacity in North America," he said.
-- To protect itself against the strong yen, Nissan will continue to localize its manufacturing base. Nissan will increase capital investment in the United States and increase manufacturing in the dollar zone.
Nissan is "not going to continue shipping cars from Japan," Ghosn said. "We have to reduce our cost in yen. If we reduce in yen, that means less production in yen and less sourcing in yen. We need to move into the dollar area."
-- The United States and China are the two most important markets for Nissan in the near term.
"We have invested so much to gain our position," Ghosn said. "Now we are in a position to transform the U.S. into a major position for Nissan."
He said Nissan has the potential for "at least 10 percent market share" in the United States. "We are going to continue to work on innovation and new product," he said. "For the first time in our lives we are on the same level as the best. There is the potential for the company to be very big, particularly in the U.S."
n Renault-Nissan, in combination with Daimler, will offer an affordable hydrogen fuel cell vehicle "within five to 10 years."