While much of the auto industry steers away from the evaporating sedan market in the U.S., Nissan is accelerating toward it with product reboots.
Nissan this month unveiled a redesigned Versa subcompact — now bigger in proportion, bolder in design and bundled with technology typically found in more upscale vehicles. Meanwhile, a freshened Nissan Sentra compact is on the way that gives the car a design and powertrain makeover.
Nissan's investments come as the small-car share of the U.S. light-vehicle market contracted to 12.4 percent last year from 18.2 percent in 2014. Americans are cold-shouldering sedans as they swoon over roomier, more versatile crossovers.
"It's tough to have two small sedans in a contracting part of the industry," said Tyson Jominy, vice president of the Power Information Network at J.D. Power. "It continues to amaze us how far sedan sales can fall. Every year the contraction gets worse and worse."
Nissan may follow other automakers in offering just one small sedan nameplate to satisfy U.S. demand, Jominy said. He predicts the larger Sentra survives any consolidation.
"It has the better brand equity," Jominy said.
But Scott Shirley, Nissan's vice president of marketing operations, dismissed speculation of a lineup consolidation and suggested reports of the small-sedan market's death are greatly exaggerated.
"We still see in these segments 5 million car sales a year," Shirley told Automotive News. "We are redoubling our forecast; we are concentrating on delivering much better value, much stronger product to the market and a much better ownership experience."