American consumers' stampede away from sedans was well illustrated in Nissan's July sales numbers.
Sedan deliveries for the Nissan Division cratered 25 percent last month. It was part of a broader U.S. sales slide for Nissan Group in July.
Combined Nissan and Infiniti U.S. sales slipped 9.1 percent to 98,880 vehicles. Nissan Division sold 90,220 vehicles for the month, down 8.9 percent from a year ago. Infiniti sales slid 11 percent to 8,660 vehicles.
Despite the downward momentum, July's sales performance was an improvement over the prior month. Nissan Group's U.S. sales tumbled 15 percent in June.
Nissan continues its gradual pivot away from high-volume, low-margin rental fleet sales, Billy Hayes, division vice president for Nissan sales, told Automotive News.
"We continue to work the plan; we're bringing down [rental] fleet sales," Hayes said.
Sedans vs. trucks
The Nissan Division saw a double digit percentage sales decline in nearly every sedan nameplate in the lineup.
Despite a freshening last year, the Maxima suffered a 15 percent slide in July. Hayes attributes that partly to an overall decline in the large sedan segment.
"It's a model that we see opportunity in," Hayes said. "We've released some tactical programs on Maxima."
Sales of the Altima midsize sedan tumbled 30 percent in July, despite a redesign in October.
The new Altima, even with its new styling and optional all-wheel drive, is not bringing in the traffic Nissan needed to prop up the rest of its aging car lineup, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of AutoForecast Solutions.
"This doesn't bode well for the rest of the year when dealerships expect to get updates to the Sentra and Versa," Fiorani said.
Hayes attributed the Altima's year-over-year sales decline to "extremely aggressive" 2018 model-year sell-down tactics last year, including dealer and consumer incentives. "We depleted the Altima inventory into the release of the MY2019," he said.
Nissan's sales slip continued into the bottom of its sedan lineup. Versa subcompact deliveries tumbled 51 percent in July, ahead of a redesign this month. Meanwhile, the compact Sentra suffered a 16 percent slide last month.
But Nissan's light trucks helped tap the brakes on the automaker's sales drop. Light-truck deliveries rose 4.3 percent in July.
The Nissan Frontier pickup saw a 23 percent uptick in sales last month, despite an aging design. "It's an amazing value," Hayes said. "Dealers are behind it."
Big brother Titan didn't fare as well as it struggles to hang on in a segment dominated by the Detroit 3. Sales of the full-size pickup suffered the steepest dive of any Nissan truck nameplate, down 44 percent in July. The Titan will receive a refresh this year.
Despite the intense competition, Hayes said, "it's a segment that we continue to be committed to."