Nissan's Only Problem: Not Enough Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Pronounced near-dead in 1999, Nissan has made a remarkable, but often unnoticed turn-around ever since. With little fanfare, the Yokohama company passed Honda as Japan’s second largest auto maker. In China, the land of car growth, Nissan sold 1.3 million cars last year, became largest Japanese brand and has expansion plans for 2.3 million. Nissan is also the company that recovered fastest from the March 11 tsunami. With only 25 percent of its world output in Japan, Nissan had less exposure that Honda, and especially Toyota. It also was lucky: Nissan could duck the chip shortage that hit Toyota and Honda with full force. Nissan’s engine factory in Iwaki is 60 miles away from Fukushima. A little closer, and it would still be closed. Instead, it was back up and running two months after the disaster. One of the most horrific years for Japan and the Japanese auto industry is shaping up to be the defining year for Nissan. Nissan’s biggest problem: Not enough cars.

“At the moment, we’ve only got one problem – making enough cars. I’ve got back orders for 30,000 cars in Mexico, 20,000 in Latin America. In Europe, even though they’re working seven days a week with shifts, I’ve got orders going back for two months on Qashqai.”

This is what Nissan Chief Performance Officer and Executive Vice President Colin Dodge today said in an interview in Yokohama. In Mexico, the soft underbelly of the U.S., Nissan holds on to an amazing market share of 26.4 percent. Most of the growth of Nissan comes from emerging markets, and Nissan hasn’t even covered all the BRIC markets yet. In China, Nissan is strong. In Russia, Brazil and India, Nissan has “just started,” as Dodge admits.

By the end of this calendar year, both Toyota and Honda will have produced significantly fewer cars than in 2010. Nissan on the other hand already produced 150,000 cars more than in 2010. Says Dodge:

“We’ve recovered from the earthquake as a company, it seems like, about two months quicker than Toyota, and Honda is still not recovered.”

Dodge’s boss, Carlos Ghosn, has another problem: The obscenely high yen. A chief of production doesn’t have his eyes on exchange rates:

“The yen, of course, is unfortunate. However, we’re doing our best to mitigate the effects of the yen. We’re praying for the Japanese government to do something in terms of quantitative easing. If not, it’s looking pretty dark, obviously, but I wouldn’t be depressed for the next six to eight weeks. Let’s make some cars, and sell the cars in the system.”


Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Geozinger Geozinger on Sep 26, 2011

    I thought Nissan in Japan had a stroke of luck that it's facilities were nowhere near as affected as the Honda and Toyota facilities. IIRC, weren't they even further away from the afflicted areas?

  • Secret Hi5 Secret Hi5 on Sep 26, 2011

    I don't understand why Nissan is so aggressive with incentives when it's selling so well. Nissan should pad its bottom line by reducing unneeded incentives.

  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.
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