But Nissan's seemingly unconventional bet on sedans is giving the automaker an unexpected lift as fuel prices in the U.S. climb.
"We're in a great position with what's going on with rising fuel costs," Wheeler said.
Nissan has six models that deliver more than 30 mpg and one that offers more than 40 mpg.
"As we go into Q2 and Q3 — and I think it'll last that long — customers are going to be choosing vehicles that get much better fuel economy," Wheeler said. "That's going to be part of the [customer's] decision-making more than ever."
Indeed. Two of the three Nissan models that generated sales increases in the last quarter were sedans.
Deliveries of the all electric Leaf hatchback rose 49 percent. Sales of the midsize Altima sedan rose 20 percent.
To capitalize on renewed demand for energy-efficient models, Nissan is prioritizing limited chip supply toward sedans.
"Six months ago, we maybe wouldn't have been as focused on vehicles that have high fuel efficiency," Wheeler said. "Now, with what's going on in the marketplace, we're saying, 'Hey, we can actually put more of those in production and potentially do a little less of something else.' "
Brands: Nissan, down 29% in first quarter; Infiniti, down 41%
Notable nameplates: Nissan Titan, down 14%; Kicks, off 16%; Altima, up 20%; Rogue, down 48%; Infiniti QX50 down, 46%; Infiniti Q50, down 44%
Incentives: $1,782 for the quarter, down 51% from a year earlier, TrueCar says
Average transaction price: $33,223 for the quarter, up 15% from a year earlier, according to TrueCar
Fleet mix: 12.4%in March, according to TrueCar
Did you know? Nissan Frontier sales more than doubled to 22,405 in the first quarter.