Fresh product and a new dealer incentive program had Nissan sales off to a brisk start in the new year.
"Then, the world changed," said David Kershaw, Nissan division vice president of sales and regional operations.
Combined U.S. sales of Nissan and Infiniti models plummeted 30 percent in the first quarter, as consumer demand for vehicles and much else fell off the cliff in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Nissan division sold 232,048 vehicles in the quarter, down 30 percent from the year earlier. Infiniti sales, meanwhile, tumbled 26 percent to 25,558 vehicles.
"We really saw some good results with that out of the gate; retail velocity improved," Kershaw told Automotive News Wednesday. "We had a very good second half of February and the first part of March."
While first-quarter sales tumbled across most vehicle lines for Nissan and Infiniti, it wasn't all doom and gloom..
Year-over-year sales were up for several Nissan crossovers — Murano (34 percent), Kicks (12 percent); and Pathfinder (4.3 percent).
The Murano, which was freshened early last year, was a "focus vehicle" throughout the summer, Kershaw said.
"The segment continues to grow," he said. "It's got really terrific brand equity for us, dealers have really gotten around that product."
Brands: Nissan down 30% in first quarter; Infiniti down 26%
Notable nameplates: Nissan Titan, down 41%; Maxima, down 42%; Altima, down 8%; Rogue, down 36%; Infiniti QX50, up 16%; Infiniti Q50, down 33%
Incentives: $4,187 per vehicle, up 8.3% from a year earlier, ALG says
Average transaction price: $26,927, down 1.3% from a year earlier, according to ALG
Did you know? The QX50 crossover was the only Infiniti model that had a sales gain (16 percent) in the first quarter.