Nissan Defies Trends, Keeps Selling More Cars In America

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

In the steadily growing U.S. new vehicle market, car sales have increased just 1% through the first ten months of 2014.

Nissan, however, says their car sales have grown 15.5% in 2014, surging forward by more than 90,000 units to 669,538.

In calendar year 2013, total new vehicle sales were up nearly 8%, but car sales grew just 4% during a year in which, for example, pickup trucks were up 12%.

2014 hasn’t been so kind to cars, with the Chrysler Group’s passenger cars collectively falling 15%, Ford Motor Company car sales sliding 4%, GM cars up less than 2%, American Honda car sales up less than 1%, Hyundai car sales down 3%, total Toyota/Lexus/Scion cars up just 1%, and the Volkswagen brand’s cars down 12%.

According to Automotive News, in an industry that’s expanded by 720,125 units, total new passenger car sales are up by fewer than 77,000 units. Cars accounted for 50.6% of all new vehicle sales in the first ten months of 2013; just 48.5% in 2014.

That approximate 49% mark isn’t an unusual one for the auto industry in the United States. Americans are expected to register more than 16 million new vehicles in 2014, the first such 16K+ year since 2007, a year in which 48.8% of the new vehicles sold were passenger cars, down from 49.1%.

But Nissan is a much different seller of cars now than they were in 2007, when they sold 542,258 cars in the full calendar year, a figure which they eclipsed in the first eight months of 2014. (Nissan’s car division in 2007 was made up of a Z, Altima, Maxima, Sentra, and Versa. In addition to those five cars, Nissan now also lists the Cube, GT-R, Juke, and Leaf among their cars.)

Setting aside the historical significance, though, just look at Nissan’s current car performance, excluding the Juke for relatively obvious reasons. The brand’s car sales are thus up 16% to 635,517 units. 44% of that volume comes from the Altima, America’s fourth-best-selling car overall and third-best-selling midsize car. The Altima competes in a stagnant segment, but sales of this intermediate Nissan are up 3.4% in 2014. The brand’s two core small car nameplates, Versa (which includes the Note in Nissan’s release) and Sentra, combine to sell about as often as the Altima, generating another 43% of the brand’s car volume.

The Versa, up 21% in 2014, is America’s leading subcompact. Sentra sales are up 44% in a competitive set that’s risen around 3% this year. The Leaf is Nissan’s fourth-best-selling car. Sales are up 35% to 24,411 units, making the Leaf America’s 66th-best-selling car in 2014, just behind the Hyundai Veloster; just ahead of the Ford C-Max. This leaves less than 2% of the brand’s car volume for the 370Z (up 13%), Cube (down 28%), and GT-R (up 9%), and another 7% for the Maxima.

Sales of the Maxima are up 9% in this run-out-the-clock year, a real rarity in a declining category of big, volume-brand cars. The Maxima sells slightly more often than the Buick LaCrosse; slightly less often than the Chrysler 300.

These car nameplates have generated 59% of the Nissan brand’s year-to-date sales, up from 58% last year. Fortunately for Nissan, the Frontier, Juke, Murano, NV, NV200, and especially the Rogue have produced significant improvements, as well. Those vehicles, along with the declining Armada, Pathfinder, Quest, Titan, and Xterra, are up 11% to 436,947 units this year. Total Infiniti sales are up 4% to 93,925, 8% of the overall company’s volume.

And where does the Nissan brand rank in the grand scheme of automakers competing for passenger car sales in America this year? Automotive News says the Toyota brand leads the way, followed by Chevrolet, Honda, and then Nissan, which is nearly 17,000 sales ahead of FoMoCo’s Ford division. Of course, Ford has managed to sell 620,447 F-Series pickups this year, a massive figure which once again puts the car market into perspective.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • Plee Plee on Nov 14, 2014

    I have the opportunity to drive dozens of late model used cars at a large auto auction every week. Many of the cars are Nissan and Infiniti products, ex rentals and lease turn ins. The Altima has the roughest 4 cylinder of any make I have driven, and combined with the CVT it really would be hard to live with when there are many other choices that are quieter. When Altimas are three or four years old with typical miles on them, the CVT is really jerky and the drone from the engine is really loud. The sales numbers reflect a very high number of daily rental sales and that combined with their frequent advertising and aggressive pricing is giving them a surge in the current market. It is a market with many choices. I just don't think the Altima is near the top of the mid size offerings.

  • Mechaman Mechaman on Nov 15, 2014

    Wonder who's buying the latest models? fugly if you ask me .. the '13 and '14 Camry make the Altima look weird (no, it does that all alone) I haven't seen a Maxima in a LONG time. The Sentra fell off too.

  • Probert A few mega packs would probably have served as decent backup.
  • Lou_BC Lead sleds. Now-a-days GM would just use Bondo.
  • Jrhurren This is a great series. Thanks Corey
  • Tane94 Not as stylish as the Soul which it is replacing but a practical shape and bonus points for EV only.
  • Ronin What is the magical white swan event in the foreseeable future that will suddenly reverse the trend?Success tends to follow success, and likewise failure. The perception, other than among true believers, is that e-cars are a lost cause. Neither government fiat, nor government bribery, nor even the promise of superior virtue among one's peers have been enough to push past the early adapter curve. Either the bust-out is right now for e-cars, or it doesn't happen. Marketing 101.Even subtle language-manipulation, such as deeming those possessing common sense as suffering from some sort of vague anxiety (eg, "range anxiety") has not been enough to induce people to care.Twenty years from now funny AI-generated comedians will make fun of the '20s, and their obsession with theose silly half-forgotten EVs. They will point out that, yes, EVs actually ran on electricity generated by such organic fuels as coal and natural gas after all, and then they will perform synthesized laughter at us.
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