Another Sedan 'Savior'? The Optimism Pouring From Nissan's U.S. Chairman Is Bittersweet

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
another sedan savior the optimism pouring from nissan s u s chairman is

In the lead-up to the current-generation Toyota Camry’s launch in late summer, 2017, company brass predicted this model would change things. This Camry, in addition to the new-for-2018 Honda Accord and redesigned 2019 Nissan Altima, would arrest the segment’s downward plunge, said Jack Hollis, Toyota’s U.S. VP of marketing. He predicted a sales increase in 2018.

Well, while the Camry is more than likely drawing more buyers from a shrinking pool, the segment has not grown in 2018. The sales surge that followed the 2018 Camry’s release didn’t last, with the model posting declining year-to-date sales starting in July.

It seems there’s a severe lack of optimism in the segment, and with good reason. But Nissan North America chairman Denis Le Vot isn’t having any of it. The decline stops riiiiight now, he predicts.

The traditional-minded among us would like to believe that. Not everything needs to be a crossover, this disillusioned crowd cries, and not everyone has 1.5 kids and a dog and a paddleboard to cart around. Still, there’s no getting away from the fact that only 30.6 percent of vehicles sold in the U.S. in August were passenger cars. One in six new vehicles is a mainstream compact crossover, data shows.

Speaking to Automotive News, Le Vot’s rose-colored glasses shone brightly. The 2019 Altima sedan and its available variable-compression four-cylinder engine is apparently the spark needed to lure a younger crop of buyers away from crossovers.

It’s not entirely groundless optimism.

“We think 30 percent is the bottom,” he told Automotive News. “Market intelligence is telling us that Generation Z’s favorite body style is sedans. The big wheel is turning.”

Of course, there’s a big difference between liking something and buying it, though if this overall preference translates into purchasing decisions, Nissan (and other automakers) might get their wish. That’s assuming enough members of this young demographic find decent (but not too decent) jobs while remaining free of marriage and pregnancy.

Generation Z emcompasses those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. They don’t remember 9/11, or if they do, it’s as hazy as my memories of the Challenger explosion. Currently, much automotive marketing targets Millennials — an older group with considerably greater buying power. It seems the lion’s share of Millennial marketing (most of which is atrocious), pegs the consumer as a urban professional with a taste for adventure, a close-knit group of trendy, urban professional friends, and a thirst for semi-rugged recreational activities. We’re talking kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking, and other things that take place outside the city.

Crossover marketing and Millennial marketing overlap like two lovers.

Le Vot said Nissan plans to revamp all of its “core sedans” by 2020, part of a product offensive that includes light truck models. On the Generation Z front, Le Vot believes that higher interest rates will sway price-savvy, income-challenged youngsters away from costlier crossover market and into sedans. Added technology should help broaden the appeal, he claims.

For 2019, the Altima adopts all-wheel drive for the first time, as well as the aforementioned trick engine and a suite of driver’s aids. It shows up at dealers this fall. Over the first eight months of 2018, Altima sales declined 15.6 percent, with last year’s volume showing a 23.5 percent drop from 2015 figures.

[Images: Nissan]

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3 of 29 comments
  • Superdessucke Superdessucke on Sep 17, 2018

    That's the spirit Nissan! I like the way it looks though, like my '15 Accord Sport, it is probably 10" longer than it really needs to be.

    • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Sep 18, 2018

      Thankfully for you, Honda makes the equally roomy and fast Civic. Your post has me thinking. Manufacturers are probably making a mistake focusing on midsizers. The real hope and volume going forward is in compacts, which Nissan seems almost keen on neglecting. They are cheaper to make, and by virtue of their lighter weight and shorter wheelbases are inherently more fun to drive. Well, except for the Sentra, which is flat out miserable.

  • ABC-2000 ABC-2000 on Sep 17, 2018

    It's just another boring car, just like any Camry or Accord, I know because I rented many Camrys over the years including 2 Altimas, I am also driving my (leased) second Accord that is a vary good car but defiantly not exciting, I can tell you what excites me, An MX-5, a Mustang GT, even an F-150 Raptor can go on this list, not an Altima, 95% of Altima buyers are doing it because it's cheap!

  • Lou_BC You can't go too wrong with a SBC, even a modded one. I get the vibe this has had a hard life. Kinda like the hot chick with a "property of H.A." tat on her butt.
  • El scotto Think of three vehicle assembly plants on the same road with fast food joints across the road. The fast food joints sell food to the workers from all three plants. Think of the suppliers as the fast food joints. They sell to all three plants and if the plants are idled, the suppliers have to shut down too.
  • The Oracle This is a proper muscle coupe clunker.
  • El scotto Oh Lordy, the LT series engine in well, anything are kind of like free shots or slow dancing with a baby momma. You tell yourself, no really this is the last time.
  • El scotto Matt, truly great writing. The bosses need to let you loose more often. Save this one for the "Examples of My Writing" part of your resume.