NASHVILLE -- Infiniti will attempt to extend its strong March floor traffic by moving up its annual summer sales event into April, a senior Infiniti manager said today.
The luxury make will hold its first spring sales event near the middle of this month and has already produced national TV spots to support it.
The brand usually holds its Infiniti Summer Sales Event in June.
Ben Poore, Infiniti vice president for the Americas, says his team has not decided whether there will also be a summer event this year.
"We'll decide later this month," he says.
Infiniti traditionally advertises heavily during the March college basketball playoffs and sees an uptick in floor traffic and sales for the month. This year, Infiniti rose 9 percent to 11,103 sales for March, with its year-old JX crossover selling 2,633 units.
"Normally, we see a drop-off in April," Poore says. "We want to change that this year to capitalize on the momentum we get from our March ad campaign."
He said the spring event will focus primarily on the JX and the G sedan, which is in the final half-year of its model cycle. Its replacement, the Q50, arrives at dealerships this summer.
Despite being at the end of its life, the G held fairly steady last month with sales of 4,530 sedans, a modest 4 percent decline from March 2012. Including the coupe version, G sales slipped 7 percent to 5,572, still enough to remain Infiniti's top seller.
Infiniti's 9 percent rise propelled Nissan North America's U.S. sales in March to a 1 percent gain, as Nissan-brand sales were flat.
Leaf sales soar
The electric Nissan Leaf -- a model that has been slow to catch on for two years -- helped push Nissan Division and Nissan North America to their highest volume month ever.
Leaf sales soared almost fourfold from March 2012 to 2,236 units, thanks to a complete shift in factory production from Japan to Smyrna, Tenn., and a related reduction in price.
In March, the Nissan brand sold 126,623 units, roughly 500 more than a year earlier.
Nissan's redesigned Pathfinder crossover was another big gainer for the month. Its sales almost tripled.
Al Castignetti, Nissan Division vice president for sales, said dealers were actually held back on Pathfinder sales by a tight supply of its higher-end trim package, the Platinum Edition.
"We're trying to get more Platinum production now," Castignetti said. "But overall, it was an outstanding month with good traffic and good sales across the board."
Castignetti says two of Nissan's key sales numbers are deceptively positive. Both the volume-leading Altima sedan and the compact-class Sentra show declines for the month, despite being redesigned for 2013 and benefiting from steady national advertising.
The Altima declined 8 percent to 37,763 units in March, while Sentra dropped 1 percent to 13,965.
But in both cases, the numbers belie an increase in retail sales, Castignetti says. A year ago both models were at the end of their model cycles and were sold heavily into daily rental fleets.
"It's a huge shift for us to see the Sentra doing so well," he says. "Sentra is really standing on its own now, and dealers are selling it without a lot of incentives."