Nissan on the Move, But Not in the U.S.?

July 28th, 2011
2011 Infiniti G37 Coupe

2011 Infiniti G37 Coupe

Compared to the other worldwide brands sold in the U.S., we don’t seem to hear much about Nissan cars—unless somebody is reviewing the Juke, the Cube or the Murano CrossCabriolet, and poking fun at them.

Autobloggers had a field day with the CrossCabriolet, the N.Y. Times writer cited above calling it “the ride of Frankenstein.”

How come we don’t get reviews of the Altima, Nissan’s best-selling car in the U.S. with sales up 22.7 percent over last year? That car was just approved for use in New York’s taxi fleet (hybrid and non-hybrid versions). The NV200 was recently selected as the city’s next large-volume taxi. The company’s U.S. June sales as a whole rose 11.4 percent.

The Leaf recently won the top safety awards from both NHTSA and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). It’s beating the Volt in sales, with Nissan “selling 3,875 of the Leaf in the United States to GM’s 2,745 Volts,” a substantial margin.

And yet… take a look at J.D. Power’s recent APEAL (automotive performance, execution and layout) study reported here. Japanese cars in general aren’t making it the way they used to with U.S. buyers, and Nissan is far down in most categories. Overall, they came in fourth from the bottom, outdone only by Jeep, Subaru and Suzuki.

2011 Nissan Quarterly SalesOne reason you’re not hearing about Nissan is that it’s a truly global company. It announced yesterday that it was investing $8 billion in China with its partner Dongfeng. That is a lot of yuan, Juan.

It’s planning to introduce 30 models, doubling annual sales there by the end of 2015. This means Nissan is looking to have 10 percent (2.3 million units) of the giant Chinese market share; it has 6.2 percent now.

Nissan also has recovered much faster from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan than its competitors, Toyota and Honda. More cars are in their dealerships, and they seem well-positioned to move ahead in the U.S. market. Nissan North America has three plants here that produce most of the U.S. market cars. Most Infinitis and the Leaf come from Japan.

I think their biggest marketing push ought to come with Infiniti, not the small, crazy/cute cars they’ve been stressing. The luxury segment is tough right now, but Infiniti is very much able to compete with Lexus—and at least some of the Benz Brothers (in which I include BMW and Audi).

For instance, look at the used-car prices of the under-praised G37 on DealFinder now. Pretty amazing, I think.

Is Nissan trying to be all things to all buyers in the U.S. market? What do you think?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used Nissan Juke
Used Nissan Cube
Used Nissan Altima
Used Infiniti G37

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