By on January 20, 2020

nissan

Japanese executives traditionally take company failings very personally, often performing penance in the wake of scandals and downturns. In the case of fresh-on-the-job Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida, his punishment for the automaker’s dismal financial situation and tumbling sales was an earful from a group of angry U.S. dealers.

The dealers let Uchida have it during a recent meeting at Nissan’s U.S. headquarters — the first such meeting since Uchida’s elevation to CEO late last year. It’s not like he didn’t ask for it.

According to Automotive News, Uchida specifically asked for brutal honesty from the group of retailers. “I’m here to listen, don’t hold anything back — even if it’s hard for me to hear,” the CEO reportedly told the group.

What followed was an hour-and-a-half rundown of every gripe dealers have with Nissan, ranging from concern over brand image (it’s too low-rent) to weak residual values and untimely product updates. The automaker’s efforts to pull back on incentivization also doesn’t sit well with dealers. They want money to help move product, a change in the automaker’s compensation plan for dealers, as well as more help on the marketing side.

While Nissan continues holding the line on fleet sales and reduced incentivization — an effort aimed at boosting residuals and placing the struggling automaker on a more solid financial footing — it hasn’t done anything for brand sales, especially in the United States. Volume shrunk 9.9 percent in 2019, with sales weighed down by an even worse-performing Infiniti.

As 2019 drew to a close, reports emerged of Nissan scrambling to cut costs wherever savings could be found, including on air travel. A two-day January furlough of U.S. workers only served to highlight the company’s desperation.

One dealer claimed the room demanded more autonomy for the company’s U.S. business, much like Volkswagen of America asked for — and got — from its rigid parent company. As one retailer is quoted as saying, “if you don’t [provide] all the resources today, the check later on is going to be even greater.”

Nor did the dealers like Nissan’s focus on high-tech things. Consumers, they said, want to know what a brand can do for them, and U.S. advertising should reflect this. “Our technology message is getting lost in translation,” is a comment one source recalls. “Self-driving cars may be great in Japan or different parts of the world, but [in the U.S.], people are not responding to it.”

While Uchida reportedly told dealers he has “a plan” to fix Nissan’s ills, without divulging much more than that, the group gave the CEO credit for showing up and taking the heat. The situation is the inverse of when Carlos Ghosn headed the company.

“No one in the room ever dared tell Carlos Ghosn what he didn’t want to hear,” one dealer said.

[Image: Nissan]

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53 Comments on “Dealers Blast Nissan CEO, Deliver ‘an Hour and a Half of Reality’...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Product should be first, Nissan has very little going for it product wise, where as all other brands, even with screw ups they may own at least have some positives.

    GM: V8 engines
    Ford: Trucks
    FCA: off-road, trucks, muscle cars
    Toyota: reliability, off-road
    Subaru: AWD, perceived safety
    Honda: no idea but the proles love it
    BMW: badge

    Nissan??? Accepts low credit scores? I have no doubt there are Nissan owners that like their purchases, I still have a 99 Frontier, but today? You might swing my into a new Frontier based solely on price. That’s about it.

    Wasting money on autonomous tech is a fools errand, it’s an easy way to keep me out of dealerships because there are clearly corners being cut on many of these cars with autonomous tech that there is little to like.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      What’s Nissan got going for it? Crappy CVTs, at least in the smaller cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      I have to agree with you – Nissan has no instant-response identity. They used to have a niche as a “poor man’s BMW” but that has faded away with the advent of Infiniti which now carries that banner but with the “poor man” part scratched out.
      I never hear about Maximas any more or Altimas either. I think of Nissan as purveyors of cheap cars (Versa, anyone? No?) and gaudy trucks (it’s not just a truck, it’s aTitan! Now with more plasti-chrome!). Sure, it’s the SUV’s that sell, but it’s the cars that give the brand an identity. I don’t even know what Nissan calls its SUVs.

      I think it’s funny that the article mentions that Nissan is holding the line on fleet sales because when I think Altima, I think rental car.

      • 0 avatar
        3800FAN

        They went from poor mans bmw to poor mans car by pumping up fleet sales and covering the hoods with cash at dealerships. Theyve basicially become what pontiac was in the 2000s.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    These guys have a LOOOONNNNNG road back.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Like others have noted, Nissan just seems to consistently come in last when compared to any other manufacturer. I wasn’t disappointed in the Altima when I cross-shopped it vs other Japanese sedans, but it certainly came in last vs the Accord, Camry and Mazda 6.

    I have literally no advice for Nissan. I don’t have a clue what they could do to climb out of their hole.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      But the problem isn’t just that an Altima will underwhelm you on a test-drive. The interior material quality is so far behind its competition. Flimsy switches/gears/handles/etc. Just sad, considering how nice Nissans used to be through the early 2000s.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        They were pretty well cost cut by the early 2000s (starting in the mid 90s, earlier than Toyota/Honda), but still had that simple sensible Japanese style and fairly decent soft touch, standard Japan inc. crisp buttons/stalks/etc. The tie up with Renault just pushed them off the cliff into ugly and even cheaper interiors. ’95 Maxima although it was a breakthrough in the powertrain department with the sweetheart VQ30, had regressed to a beam rear axle, and just felt kind of lightweight and insubstantial on the inside compared to a ’95 Camry, for example.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I agree that early adoption of not ready for prime time CVTs many years ago stained the Nissan rep. In the 70-90s Datsun/Nissan produced an acceptable product.

    On the other hand speak of glass houses

    I would love to hear any dealer say to their customers

    “I’m here to listen, don’t hold anything back — even if it’s hard for me to hear”

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Nissan has always played 2nd fiddle to toyota and honda. Their lineup in the 90s was reliable but poorly designed (cramped generic cars) when carlos took over in 99 their cars got the design right but reliability, interior quality tanked…they gave the term CVT a black eye for sure…then he got them hooked on fleet crack that put them in the mess theyre in now which is similar to pre-bankruptcy gm.

    Short term they gotta hold the line on fleet sales and incentives to get resale value back up. Long term product wise i donno…put the attention to detail into their product honda does and maybe ill consider one.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @3800 perhaps vehicle with the Nissan name plate but not Datsun. For a considerable period Datsun was Toyota’s major Asian competition in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      ” Their lineup in the 90s was reliable but poorly designed (cramped generic cars) when carlos took over in 99 their cars got the design right but reliability, interior quality tanked”

      I don’t see it. How were Nissans more cramped than their Honda/Toyota rivals? If anything, the ’95-99 Sentra was impressively roomy and powerful/smooth on the highway for the era. The Altima was kind of a ‘tweener for a while, but Nissan had the Maxima that was a very roomy car (roomier than Accord/Camry throughout the 90s), and had a very strong base powerplant that Toyota/Honda were playing catchup to for a while. The French influence didn’t show up until the ’02ish Altima IMO and their orange backlit gauges and increasingly ugly sense of aesthetics (big middle bar in the grille, vertical headlights)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Drop Infiniti, drop CVTs, drop the VC-Turbo engine, drop the Maxima.

    Revive Datsun, keep the Zero-Gravity seats, offer a 10/100 warranty, offer a competitive CUV EV that uses the Tesla Supercharging network.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Drop the current Maxima. Replace it with a 4 door, 4 seat, NA V6 version of the rumored Z car replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      ========Read all comments========

      Excellent suggestions.
      Add super-comfortable seats.
      Run ads showing families that are repeat Nissan buyers.
      Find an updated slogan to the “AWESOME” of yesteryear. (Remember “Toyota Quality”? It’s still echoing decades later.)
      Maybe even offer low-priced insurance in-house, if it’s legal to do so.
      Do whatever everyone else is doing, but better than they do.
      The process of trying to do so will make the company better.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      Nissan cant dump Infiniti without paying billions of dollars in severance to Infiniti dealers. Nissan cant afford this in the least, so it wont happen.

      Dropping the CVTs should be priority one. Too many people have been burned by Nissan CVTs, never to return. The cycle will continue until Nissan can provide a reliable transmission. But the customers they have lost will never return.

      VC-Turbo has potential but it needs a lot of tweaking and massaging to get there.

      Maxima needs to go back to its “4-door sports car” roots. If Porsche can make the Panamera profitable, there is no reason Nissan couldnt do the same with a more plebian version.

      Most importantly, Nissan needs to sell RELIABLE CARS AND TRUCKS. Toyota sells vehicles like hotcakes for one primary reason – reliability. Nissan can certainly do the same. But they had better do so soon – the South Koreans are hitting on all cylinders lately.

      Everything else, totally agreed.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Replace the Jatco CVT to start with otherwise don’t waste anymore resources.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Mazda may not be printing money but their 6 speed auto (which so many see as “archaic”) would be much preferable to me over a CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      +1

      Even non car people know now to stay far from CVTs.

      • 0 avatar
        CKNSLS Sierra SLT

        Even non car people know now to stay far from CVTs.

        HM…………….NO-not true by any stretch. I understand this board is like the “Twilight Zone” in an alternate universe…………..

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        Honda and Subaru sell CVT’s by the boatload. I dont really think people care about CVT’s the way that enthusiasts do. Personally, I think a good CVT is on par with most fixed ratio automatics. Neither is particularly exciting. But a traditional automatic would probably be welcome addition in vehicles like the Pathfinder and Maxima.

        It seems to me that Nissan has a product problem, Infiniti has withered on the vine in many respects, products like the Z, Pathfinder and Frontier have lots of potential and name recognition but zero love from the mothership. I don’t have the answers but seems like product always goes a long way to fixing things like profit and perception.

    • 0 avatar
      remusrm

      Nothing wrong with the Jatco CVT, my Lancer SE has one and the problem is on the Nissan side. They went with a lower cooling capacity and it overheats! That’s what kills them. My Lancer has 124k and no issue with it!

  • avatar
    dal20402

    All you people demanding that Nissan quit the CVT are crazy. CVTs, now that they are usually reliable, are the best transmission type in non-enthusiast applications. Smoother, faster acceleration, and better fuel economy.

    They need to pay attention to the rest of their product. And I think they should lean into cheap and cheerful. The Kicks is a great product and shows the way forward. Extroverted styling, real colors, good feature content for less money than Toyota and Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      3800FAN

      The problem with their cvts is reliability. They fail at 60k out of nowhere like clockwork. You dont hear of that happening with honda, toyota corolla, or subaru cvts.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        That was true in the first few years of Nissan/JATCO CVTs but not anymore. You might not want to pick a JATCO CVT if you keep vehicles for 200k+ miles but most first and second owners shouldn’t have any issues.

        And even some early ones were OK, although I wouldn’t bet on them with my money. My BIL is lucky: he has a first-year Murano with one of the first V6/CVT powertrains and it hasn’t had any issues over 150k+ miles. He keeps saying he’s going to sell it but not getting around to it, and it just keeps ticking.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “That was true in the first few years of Nissan/JATCO CVTs but not anymore.”

          It doesn’t matter, the reputation damage is done and Nissan doesn’t have the time to wait for people’s memory to fade.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Nissan was extending CVT warranties on cars as new as 2012-2017 model years… we’ll see in a few years as more of the “Pure Drive” era cars get up in miles, but I know 2013 Altimas are crap in terms of transmission reliability.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    My standard response to Nissan.

    Nissan is now what Pontiac was. The cheap car, crappy residual, good money on the hood from the factory. I.E. if you have good credit, why would own a Nissan?

    Infiniti needs to be shuttered. Re-badge the Infiniti product to Nissan to buy them a few years of product and get busy designing something that people want, people with good credit that is.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Nissan is Pontiac in that they’re subprime cars for subprime people but the analogy doesn’t go any further than that. Other than the Holden asterisks Pontiac got rebadged Chevys and only the bad Chevys at that. There’s a little bit of Renault sharing going on at the bottom but the D platform heart of Nissan’s crap lineup here is just for us. It’s not crap because it has to be. It’s crap because they made it so.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Easy fix:
    Bring back the Van Halen / Gary Numan ads.
    Everything else won’t matter, people will pay above sticker whilst frothing at mouth.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While I don’t know if those particular ads would play to the right crowd now, it is a hell of a lot better than what I’ve been seeing and hearing on the radio. When it is important to be there which shows a guy knocking on a door saying “LIKE” while the woman that answered the door is “huh” I liked your social media post and she replies “you know there is a button for that?”

      Oh and can’t forget Barbie and Ken.

    • 0 avatar
      Right_Click_Refresh

      EVH is a living GOD.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    CVT, CVT, CVT. What boring repetition. Has nobody here noticed that a large number of manufacturers have switched or are switching to CVTs?

    As well as the ‘well respected’ Toyota and Honda even Hyundai/Kia are introducing CVTs into their line-ups.

    I drive a MT but realize that I am a dinosaur and that CVTs are the future of transmissions. And the future is already here.

    As to product on a dollar to dollar comparison, the Versa Note, the outgoing generation of the Sentra, the Kicks, Qasqai and Rogue are all slightly less expensive than their competition, yet offer comparable (or better) greenhouses, interior space, equipment levels. And Nissan’s zero gravity seats are exceptional.

    As for the obsession with ‘credit ratings’ being related to vehicle status, that is largely non-existent in Canada where lending rules are generally stricter than in the USA.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The question is have we seen any other brand sell out its equity and go poor mans brand via cash incentives and fleet sales…then rebuild their brand and come back from that rep? Maybe chevy?? Thats the closest example i can think of and they partially did it by cutting fleet sales amd nissan happily taking over that market…repeating GMs mistakes. The 2nd part was gm building decent quality and not crap like the cavalier and cobalt.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      If I had any advice for Nissan it would be to greatly expand their warranty. If you are selling based on price, then price conscious consumers appreciate a long warranty.

      • 0 avatar
        3800FAN

        Good idea it worked for hyundai/kia when they introduced their 100k warrenty in the early 2000s. Sales exploded and they didnt need to put cash on the hood to move inventory. That gave them the capital needed to push their product up a level in quality.

      • 0 avatar
        JoeUrban

        This is probably the best suggestion. Even a KIA style warranty on just the drivetrain.

        As far as comments like bringing back Datsun, I would suspect Datsun has name recognition with only a tiny percentage of people born after 1960.

  • avatar
    Longshift

    Speaking of Nissan, there is a story that came out last week on Autoblog about the 2021 Frontier. They are speculating, based on anonymous dealer sources, that the 2021 Frontier will be built on the current Titan platform, so it will not be the Navara that Nissan sells overseas nor a redesign on the existing platform. They are also claiming that there will probably be no extended cab of the next version.

    Autoblog also says that the 2021 Frontier won’t come out until February 2021; however, there are no 2020 Frontiers for sale, so I am thinking the assembly line must be shut down to retool for the 2021s and there may not be a 2020 model run.

    Has TAC heard anything about the 2021 Frontier?

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      That doesn’t make sense not to offer an extended cab, I can see not offering a regular cab due to the awful CAFE mandates but an extended cab should be an easier sale than the 4 door.

      • 0 avatar
        Longshift

        I totally agree it doesn’t make sense not to offer an extended cab, but unfortunately, the manufacturers seem to think it not worth their while to offer one. The Honda Ridgeline and the Jeep Gladiator are both crew-cab only, and the upcoming Ford Courier and Hyundai Santa Cruz will apparently also be crew-cab only.

        I am in the market for an extended cab pickup since my 2011 Ford Ranger got rear-ended and totaled last summer. I have been waiting for the new Frontier to come out, but I will not buy one if there is no extended cab offered, so that will be one sale Nissan loses.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree that Honda and Toyota are using more CVTs and eventually maybe all manufacturers will use CVTs but that is for fuel economy and cost. That doesn’t mean CVTs are good. I would be more accepting of CVTs if they are able to improve CVTs to where they last longer and are not so expensive to replace. I am less concerned about how CVTs drive and more concerned about longevity and replacement cost. Also Nissans tend to have one of the highest depreciation of all brands because of their poor quality.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    Just today I went to the Nissan web site to look at the revised full size trucks. They only feature 2019 models and trim levels.

    Hopefully the dealers spoke truth to power and, moreover; Nissan listened.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    The dealers got it right about autonomous tech, its simply a waste of money. No one really wnats to buy it, and on other cars its just bundles in with stuff people do want so manufacturers can pass on the cost of this worthless crap.

    CVT’s are utter shite, I have a honda with one and its crap to drive, nor does it save on fuel. I guess theyre cheap to make.

    how does Nissan go from making cheap cars for poor credit people to something people might want to buy for reasons other than cheap price. Tough question.

    I guess they need some appealing designs, steering that does not feel dangerous decent motors good transmmsions and build quality. Since their dealers have been bottom dwellers for so long, even the might product may be hard to sell.

    Tough to believe that this is the company that gave us good maximas decades ago, 240-300z’s GTRs in the rest of the world etc.,

    I guess they have to do whatever Hyundai/Kia did. But thats a 10 year road.

  • avatar
    ryanwm80

    I guess everyone has forgotten about the radiator coolant tanks that would fail and mix coolant with transmission fluid, ruining transmissions before 100k miles.

    But their biggest problem is exterior styling.

    • 0 avatar
      Right_Click_Refresh

      My Brother hasn’t. Although he knew nothing about it and Nissan never contacted him about the recall. He kept real nice care of it and when he came for Christmas, BANG, suddenly wouldn’t start leaving him stranded here a state from home. Transmission full of goop. 2007, 128,000 miles. Engine bay you could eat off of. Ridiculous and I feel bad for the guy.

  • avatar
    Dartdude

    I crossed off Nissan vehicles when they pushed the CVT transmisson. The new cars look gaudy with it plastic chrome grilles. They scream cheap.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I recently drove an Armada and really liked it, but then again I like big BOF SUV’s. It seemed more upscale and to ride better than the Expedition and especially the Tahoe. Better yet (IMO) the Nissan had a naturally aspirated V8, no displacement on demand, and no auto start/stop.

  • avatar

    My solution to Nissan problems:

    1. Get rid of Carlos Ghosn – Done.
    2. Drop Nissan brand and keep Infiniti only.
    3a. Rename Nissan to Infiniti.
    3b. Or rename Nissan to Pontiac and then shut it down few years later.
    3. Merge with PSA-FCA.
    4. Replace CVTs with DCTs.

  • avatar

    Nissan is a cheaply built car, clearly cost cut everywhere. Think low quality food, but Super Sized !
    In my area, it is usually the Rogue, poorly driven, blocking the left lane.
    The only worse offenders are older women in Subarus.

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