LAS VEGAS -- Nissan Division, the one major Japanese brand whose sales were not greatly affected by the March earthquake, is looking to add to its 2011 momentum with a 16 percent increase in volume to 1.1 million units this year, executives told dealers today at the make meeting during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention here.
Nissan Division last broke the million-unit mark in 2006.
The 150,000-unit volume gain is part of Nissan North America's short-term objective to raise its market share, when including Infiniti, to 10 percent, up from 8.2 percent last year, said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division general manager.
In 2011, Nissan brand's U.S. sales rose 17 percent to 944,073, outpacing the industrywide light-vehicle sales gain of 10 percent.
Leading the way will be a swath of new product: A redesigned Altima in June, a redesigned Sentra and Pathfinder in the fall and a hatchback version of the Versa in early 2013.
"We've never had the one-two punch like Toyota and Honda," Castignetti said. "Sentra has never been a big player. I think Altima and Sentra can do 300,000 to 400,000 units each. Not immediately, of course. But they are strong enough to have much bigger presence in those segments."
Over the course of this year, Nissan will move from having one of the oldest product lineups to one of the freshest, with recent redesigns accounting for more than 60 percent of its volume, Castignetti said.
"We weathered the storm with an aging portfolio. Now we are in our launch phase," Castignetti said.
Don Forman, outgoing dealer advisory board chairman with Nissan stores in Las Vegas and Tustin, Calif., is encouraged by Nissan's attempt to raise new-vehicle profit margins to where they will be on par with those of Toyota and Honda.
"The launch of the new Altima will be the start of the margin parity quest," Forman said.
Castignetti said that, four years ago, return-on-sales margins were the predominant dealer concern. He said that Nissan dealers are being "transformed" with strong profits.
Mike Seidle, president of Bill Seidle's Nissan-Mitsubishi-Suzuki in Miami, said owner loyalty continues to be a key issue. Seidle was pleased to see captive Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp. offering lease-termination pull-aheads for people will only a few months left on their contract.
Castignetti said Nissan will waive the last three months' payments for anyone willing to jump into a similar new vehicle.