NASHVILLE -- Nissan Division's pullback from fleet sales this year was partly responsible for a 7 percent sales decline in February.
The Nissan brand sold 90,489 cars and trucks in February, down from 97,492 in February 2012. The luxury Infiniti brand sold 9,147 vehicles for the month, a decline of 1 percent from a year earlier.
Nissan's shift away from fleet was most noticeable on the Altima and Sentra, both of which lost ground from a year ago, despite being heavily marketed redesigned models for 2013.
Altima fell 16 percent to 27,725 sales in February compared with 32,953 in February 2012 before its redesign. Sentra, which reached showrooms in the fourth quarter of last year, dropped five percent to 10,058 sales in February.
Al Castignetti, Nissan Division's sales vice president, said Altima fleet sales were cut by 20 percent from February 2012 levels when the brand was still marketing an Altima at the end of its model cycle.
"On a retail basis, the Altima is doing much better now," Castignetti said. "It's a better car."
But Castignetti said the month's overall numbers also had been crimped by the blizzard in the Northeast, which depressed retail business for four days in one of Nissan's key regions.
Nissan posted its biggest gains on the redesigned Pathfinder crossover, which improved by 146 percent from a year earlier. But its other high-volume crossover, the Rogue, was held back in February by the hot-selling Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Castignetti said.
"We're the old man on the block with that model," he said of the Rogue, which is due to be replaced next winter. "We will have to put some incentives on it."
Infiniti retailers continued to see strong results from the JX crossover, which was introduced in the spring of 2012. Infiniti reported 2,300 JX sales in February.
But Infiniti's aging volume-leader G37 sedan -- which will be replaced this summer -- proved a sales drag on Infiniti's numbers, declining 15 percent for the month.
Jack Wilkerson, Infiniti's director of sales operations, said the company was not surprised by the G's decline for the month. "We're trying to manage our transition to the Q50 this summer," he said, referring to the newly named G replacement.