LAS VEGAS -- Nissan was the only major Japanese automaker whose U.S. sales were not hurt significantly by the March 11 earthquake. Now it is looking to add to its 2011 momentum with a 16 percent increase to 1.1 million units for the brand this year, executives told dealers at the make meeting. 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 push its market share, when including Infiniti, to 10 percent, up from 8.2 percent in 2011, said Al Castignetti, Nissan Division general manager.
Leading the way will be new products: 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."
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.
Don Forman, the outgoing dealer advisory board chairman, said he's encouraged by Nissan's attempt to boost new-vehicle profit margins so they will be on par with those of Toyota and Nissan.
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 with 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.