Nissan's U.S. sales to rental companies swung skyward in the new year, despite tight retail supply and a vow to dial down the fleet business.
The automaker's first-quarter fleet sales surged 83 percent to 67,577, compared with a 36 percent increase for the overall industry, per TrueCar estimates based on data through mid-March.
TrueCar forecasted Nissan's fleet penetration to be the second highest among major manufacturers after Stellantis in March and above the industry average of 16 percent.
Nissan said the higher Q1 fleet volumes were to meet its contractual obligations with commercial customers.
"There's always some seasonality in the industry as fleets stock up for the busy spring [and] summer seasons," spokesman Brian Brockman told Automotive News.
But the uptick is raising eyebrows among dealers, some of whom say they have a less than 30-day supply of the entry-priced models that fleets like, such as the Sentra, Kicks and Versa.
Affordability is a significant issue for Nissan's price-conscious customers with rising inflation and interest rates, said a Nissan retailer who asked not to be identified.
"The market is clamoring for less expensive, rental fleet favorites," the dealer said. "Selling low days' supply cars to rental agencies is absolutely disastrous for our retail market share."
Dealers want Nissan to prioritize retail over fleet as economic headwinds price customers out of the market.
"The only way we can sell new Nissans to many customers is with the less expensive models, because they can't afford the $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 vehicles that are too expensive with the current interest rates," the dealer said. "They're not buying the Armadas or Titans; they want the rental cars you see at the airport."