This is not the first time Nissan has considered changes in the problematic old program.
In 2019, Nissan North America executives told dealers they would evaluate moving away from the stair-step incentive program, but then decided to keep it. And in February 2020, to win back dealers who had dropped out, Nissan overhauled the program, doubling sales-volume bonuses to help drive foot traffic and lift dealer profitability.
Then, during the automaker's COVID-related hiatus from the old incentives program, something curious became apparent, according to Wheeler.
Market share rose higher than what Nissan expected at the time. "It was a little bit of an aha moment," Wheeler said. "We were like, 'Wait a minute — we have no objectives during that period, and our dealers actually performed better?' "
Wheeler believes that freeing retailers from the pressure and mechanics of sales objectives will let them focus on simply selling.
Dealers "can sell as much as they want and they will not be penalized," Wheeler said.
She said the new strategy has the support of Nissan Motor Co. leadership in Yokohama, Japan. Executives there have been supportive of the U.S. subsidiary working out the plans and "know that they have to give us the tools to be successful in this market," Wheeler said.
Many dealers are also optimistic the new program will begin a new, less chaotic chapter in Nissan's relationship with its franchises.
"This is the best plan we've seen in decades," Smith said. "If we do it the right way, we could be Honda in two years."