Flush With 2017 Models, Nissan Throws Incentives at Sales Staff

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Expect your local Nissan salesman to work extra hard for that pre-Christmas sale. That’s because Nissan, which can still boast a year-to-date sales increase in the United States, isn’t exactly overflowing with 2018 models.

Inventory of 2017s remains higher than the automaker would prefer, meaning it needs to do something to move old stock out before the end of the year. But rather than heap more factory bonuses on its vehicles (the company’s incentive spending is second only to Kia in the industry), Nissan figures it’s a better deal to throw incentives at the salesperson.

“Happy holidays. Can I interest you in a new Rogue? Seriously, how ’bout that Rogue?”

According to Automotive News, 60 out of every 100 vehicles on U.S. Nissan lots is a 2017 model. Blame the late launch of several 2018 models and a general downturn in the industry.

The solution, in Nissan’s mind, involves tossing $100 at salespeople for every sale reached, and $50 to the sales manager. This is on top of any existing staff sales incentives.

Nissan’s new “spiff” is great news for salespeople with a knack for closing the deal, but it isn’t necessarily making dealers happy. One Nissan retailer told AN that the incentive just leads to salespeople chasing “low-hanging fruit” — easy sales, often of low-profit models. Others would prefer to see factory cash sent to dealers, not salespeople.

While its sales are indeed up, both in November and the year as a whole, steep customer incentives and an increase in fleet volume hasn’t put the company on stable financial ground. At least, not in North America. Operating profit in that region fell 42 percent in the first half of 2017.

Under the direction of new CEO Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan’s aggressive sales targets are a thing of the past. The game plan for North America is now “steady, profitable growth,” according to the automaker’s North American chairman, Jose Munoz.

That could explain why December incentives are more or less steady compared to the month previous.

“We’re actually flat in overall incentives,” Judy Wheeler, Nissan Division vice president of U.S. sales, told AN. “The dollar amount per unit is flat from November to December. We’re just packaging it in a little different way. And we’re down from a year ago.”

In October 2017, Nissan’s U.S. incentive spending (as percentage of ATP) stood at 16.4 percent, well above the industry average of 11.3 percent. That spending dropped to 14.6 percent of ATP in November.

Year-over-year sales at both Nissan and Infiniti rose last month — 19.3 and 7.5 percent, respectively, mainly due to the popularity of light truck models like the Armada, Rogue, Frontier and Titan. Over the first 11 months of 2017, sales are up 2.1 percent at Nissan and 14.1 percent at Infiniti. Again, the increase has nothing to do with car sales.

Total passenger car volume is down 9 percent YTD, offset by a 16-percent increase in light truck sales.

[Image: Nissan]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • APaGttH APaGttH on Dec 11, 2017

    I'll buy a new Rogue. Only if it comes with 2 free CVT transmissions in a crate in the rear cargo area as part of the purchase.

    • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Dec 11, 2017

      >CVT transmissions Will you use it to drive to the ATM machine? Better remember your PIN number!

  • OzCop OzCop on Dec 12, 2017

    Reading this info, doesn't look like trucks and larger SUV's fit this incentive. A friend bought a new Titan XD with Cummins diesel, and it's pretty impressive. Sticker prices are a bit much with high end units floating near the 70 K mark, and a paltry 7 K incentive mark down. Ram, Ford, and GM trucks of similar size with diesel are close to the same price range, but have incentives of over 10 K...

  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern
  • Tsarcasm No, Japan only. Life costs by Rank:#1 - House (150k+)#2 - Education (30k+)#3 - Automobile (30k+) why waste hard earned money in inferior crap => Korean, Chinese, and American cars are trash. a toyota or honda will last twice as long.
  • Tassos In the 90s we hired a former PhD student and friend of mine, who 'worked' at GM "Research" labs, to come work for us as a 'temp' lecturer and get paid extra. He had no objection from GM, came during the day (around 2 PM), two hours drive round trip, plus the 1.5 hour lecture, twice weekly. (basically he goofed off two entire afternoons out of the five) He told me they gave him a different model new car every month, everything (even gas) paid. Instead of him paying parking, I told him to give me the cars and I drove them for those 90 mins, did my shopping etc. Almost ALL sucked, except the Eldo coupe with the Northstar. That was a nice engine with plenty of power (by 90s standards). One time they gave him the accursed Caddy Catera, which was as fun driving as having sex with a fish, AND to make it worse, the driver's door handle broke and my friend told me GM had to pay an arm and a leg to fix it, needed to replace almost the whole damned door!
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