Though many of the industry's mass-market brands reported U.S. sales gains in March, Nissan's deliveries last month dropped 3.6 percent as it continues to clear 2017 models off the lot and prepare updated vehicles for launch.
The brand's truck sales slipped 0.3 percent and car sales declined 7.3 percent. Nissan said it did better than it had planned against an extremely robust March a year ago.
Infiniti reported a 4.6 percent decline for March, a drop that can be explained in its entirety by the discontinuation of the QX70 crossover. Infiniti expects QX70 volume to be made up by higher sales of the redesigned QX50 crossover that went on sale last month. During March, the brand bucked industrywide trends with car sales up 2.6 percent and truck sales down 8.7 percent.
Brands: Nissan down 3.6% to 145,103 car and light-truck sales; Infiniti down 4.6% to 17,432.
Notable nameplates: Nissan Rogue, the brand's best-seller, posted the best monthly performance in its history with sales up 6.7% to 42,151. Frontier pickup sales rose 28%, while Titan pickup sales fell 11%. On the car side, Sentra rose 14% and Leaf climbed 1.5%; all other car lines dropped by double-digit percentages. On the Infiniti side, Q50 rose 34%. QX30 dropped 59% to 1,227 vehicles.
Incentives: $4,206 per vehicle in March, up 5.8% from $3,976 a year earlier, according to ALG's forecast for Nissan and Infiniti combined.
Average transaction price: $27,438, down 0.5% from a year earlier, ALG reported.
Quotes: "The market was strong. There was a bit of pent-up demand," said Judy Wheeler, Nissan Division's vice president for dealer network strategy in the U.S. and Canada. "January and February had been a bit softer. We saw everybody being quite aggressive, more so in the advertising [with] manufacturers spending more in the market than they had previous months and being aggressive on incentives as well."
"We had a great retail month versus our plan," Wheeler said. "People will do the comparison, year over year, and that may not look as good but last year, we were doing some pretty strong programs and marketing versus what we had in place this year. Part of what's been driving our fleet to be fairly high in the beginning of this year has to do with our model year transition. Our model year '18s came in fairly late this year. You pen your deals with the major rental car companies, and then you're stuck with the delivery schedule of when the production is available."
"Nissan had a lackluster March, primarily due to its car segments. Though the company continues to fleet and incentivize highly, there will be monthly swings due to these two spigots," said Akshay Anand, Kelley Blue Book executive analyst. "With the Altima redesign due to hit the market soon, Nissan should hope that will stem some of the retail sedan bleeding."
Did you know? Dealers are just getting inventory of the redesigned Leaf EV. It was enough to lift U.S. sales of the Leaf 1.5% in March. With a redesigned Altima going on sale this fall, Wheeler says, Nissan won't "be as aggressive in that segment until the new one launches."