YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan Motor Co. CEO Hiroto Saikawa has given the automaker's new North American boss some 60 days to devise a plan that may ease off the company's hard-driving reliance on incentives and fleet sales to deliver volume.
The problem? Nissan's vital U.S. market is becoming less profitable.
In an interview with Automotive News last week, Saikawa said he wants less pressure on Nissan dealers to take inventory, fewer market incentives and more focus on profitability and brand value. Also in his sights: Less reliance on fleet sales.
The anticipated new plan likely will be good news for Nissan's U.S. dealers, who have complained for years that Nissan is just pushing too hard in order to boost market share.
"I'll believe it when I see it," quipped one dealer who has frequently quarreled with Nissan about its aggressive dealer sales incentive programs.
Indeed, the monumental marching orders mark an about-face for an automaker that has almost single-mindedly chased market share in the U.S. since 2011. But the situation is not business as usual.
Tasked with engineering the changes is Denis Le Vot, the Frenchman from Renault who took over as chairman of North America just one month ago.
Saikawa said he is giving Le Vot "at least another two months" to come up with a plan so that Nissan can begin implementing short-term and midterm fixes in the fiscal year starting April 1.
"We have to first improve the brand value and profitability," Saikawa said last week after Nissan reported that operating profit plunged 50 percent in the last three months of 2017.
"Hopefully, we will be able to reach a very solid point in two years. This is the first mission for the new chairman."