Nissan has concluded that positioning itself as a technology brand is no longer working.
Marketers will pivot away from trying to entice shoppers with the brand's ProPilot driver-assistance system and Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite of safety features and instead focus on Nissan's heritage, dealers were told at their make meeting Saturday.
The Nissan Intelligent Mobility tag line has dominated the brand's advertising in recent years, stemming from the automaker's efforts to load its mass-market vehicles with advanced features to push the competitive envelope and help define Nissan's brand identity.
But executives at Saturday's meeting acknowledged that the technology angle is just not resonating with consumers, according to dealers who attended.
It's an issue dealers have raised before, telling Nissan that customers indicate they were not motivated to shop the brand because of its tech features.
Lower brand sales have hurt many dealers. And Saturday's meeting included some discussion of declining dealer profitability and enthusiasm for the brand. About 40 percent of Nissan's U.S. dealers are losing money or just breaking even. Some are shifting their attention away from Nissan's new vehicles and instead focusing on marketing higher-margin certified pre-owned and used cars.
Jose Valls, Nissan North America chairman, told the meeting of more than 300 dealers that a turnaround is in progress, but it will take time and be painful.
David Kershaw, Nissan Division vice president of sales and regional operations, said the automaker is working on efforts to help increase retail traffic.
"When I talk to dealers, they talk about traffic, traffic, traffic," Kershaw told Automotive News after the make meeting. "We know that we've got to help generate that traffic for them."
The effort actually started two days earlier. On Thursday, Nissan unveiled what it is calling its Drive 2020 program, which will boost marketing spend by 60 percent and give retailers additional financial incentives to sell down 2019 model-year vehicles.
Nissan is also increasing the dealer volume bonus for the February-to-September sales period.
Drive 2020 was described to dealers as a "bridge plan" until a wave of new product arrives. Redesigns of high-volume models, such as the Rogue, Frontier and Pathfinder, will be shown this year.
"Dealers understand that we are really putting an aggressive plan in place to sustain the business and grow the business in our Q1, Q2," Kershaw said.