By on March 2, 2020

While fleet participation helped Nissan boost its sales volume for years, management feels it hasn’t done the company any favors in terms of profitability. As such, the company says it wants to take the 2020 Sentra out of the rental circuit. If you borrow a vehicle from rental agencies more than never, you’ve probably noticed Nissan’s compact sedan is often the default choice when the supply of Chevrolet Sonics or Toyota Corollas dries up.

Expect less of this moving forward, but be warned it’s not the dream scenario you envisioned. First off, there will undoubtedly be leftover 2019 models on rental lots for some time. Secondly, Nissan improved the 2020 Sentra to a point where you might actually prefer it. The manufacturer made no small effort effort to shore up the sedan’s ride quality, handling, comfort, tech and visual aesthetics for the new generation — succeeding rather well, according to our own Tim Healey. It also has a new 2.0-liter motor offering superior vigor versus its anemic 1.8-liter predecessor. With more on offer, Nissan figured it was a better idea to try it out on customers first, rather than assuming its rightful place is in a rental fleet. 

Sentra’s placement as a budget-focused sedan will assuredly bring it back into the rental fold eventually; still, Nissan’s plan to restore profitability involves balancing fleet and retail sales a little better. Around one-third of the model’s U.S. volume went toward the fleet market last year. According to brand manager Rob Warren, that number will be zero for 2020, with the car seeing lower fleet sales even after it’s made available to rental agencies.

“As we are moving into a new direction with the company, we are making sure that we have a healthy balance of fleet with retail,” Warren explained to Automotive News.

Bent on trying to improve overall appeal, Nissan plans to finish refreshing the majority of its lineup as quickly as possible — and dumping them all on rental companies isn’t the straightest route into the hearts of consumers, who are prone toward making negative assumptions about fleet darlings. While yours truly has personally purchased automobiles specifically because of that status (Ford Panther platform, baby), such buys rarely support new car sales in any significant number.

The Sentra’s role as a traditional passenger car does pose a few problems, however. While the enhancements made for the 2020 model year does plenty to make the car more desirable, it still faces healthy competition from rival manufacturers. It’s also operating at a disadvantage in today’s retail market simply by not being a crossover.

From Automotive News:

The strategy shift will not be without challenges. Nissan’s pivot to retail is taking place as the U.S. market drifts away from sedans in favor of crossovers and SUVs.

Compact sedan sales fell 15 percent last year, compared with a 2.4 percent increase in crossover and SUV sales, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Sentra sales tumbled 13 percent to 184,618 last year as the model prepared for a changeover.

“Combined with the lack of fleet sales, the 2020 Sentra may not be able to match the prior generation’s volumes,” said Ed Kim, an analyst with AutoPacific.

But Nissan believes its decision to move away from fleet will not affect Sentra production volume in North America because the vehicle is sold globally. The car is manufactured in Mexico.

Sounds like Nissan isn’t ruling out fleet sales in other parts of the world — something Warren confirmed. “Just because we might fluctuate between retail and fleet balance here in the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily mean that that production volume all has to go to retail,” he said. “We manage this car on a global basis.”

We think Nissan has done a lot to improve the Sentra for the 2020 model year. The new 2.0-liter (149 hp and 145 lb-ft) was an absolute necessity for the U.S. market; the car now seems to be worth a second look. But it’s difficult to believe it won’t eventually return as a regular in the Manager’s Special. At least we’ll feel better about it when we come off a flight only to be told it’s the vehicle we’ll be spending the weekend with. For the first time in a long time, we’ll be able to shrug it off, knowing it could have been much worse.

[Images: Nissan]

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30 Comments on “Nissan Flees Fleet Reliance With 2020 Sentra...”

  • avatar

    Good luck with this – as long as they offer those horrible CVT’s, I doubt there will be much demand for these cars at all regardless of their price points; it is bad enough to endure them in CUV’s and SUV’s, but in a car they are miserable and not reliable. Nissan could sell on price. It does not sell on anything else these days with the poor technology they use.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      And just how many new vehicles or competitors to this do not have CVTs?

      CVTs for better or worse are not the future, they are the now.

      I drive a MT but understand that I am a dinosaur and that 3 pedal cars will soon be almost unobtainable.

      However, I do prefer the body style and in particular the roofline (increased headroom and greenhouse) of the previous generation Sentra and for that reason alone would prefer one to a Civic or Corolla.

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly, with cash on the hood, and subprime lending, I think they’ll sell enough of them, even with the horrible CVTs. The buyers would be wise to jettison them before the CVTs grenade somewhere around 100,000 miles.

      Most of the cars in this class now use CVTs, including the Forte and the Corolla. The Corolla and Forte still offer a 6-speed manual for now, and the Forte also offers a 7-speed DCT (in the GT).

    • 0 avatar



      on all points

    • 0 avatar

      The get-me-done customers that buy these things don’t care what kind of transmission it has as long as they can shift it to “D” and it moves the car forward.

    • 0 avatar

      Doesn’t matter what transmission is in it, it’s a dying segment. For the same money people can buy a rogue/kicks/rogue sport and actually be able to see around most of the other cuv’s & suv’s when driving.

    • 0 avatar

      Aaaand here comes the predictable moaning abut CVTs.

  • avatar

    All of the whining about CVTs on here is comical.. I take it all of those complaining did not grow up with hi-lo or three speed trannies that rarely made 100k and droned on and on (save for the occasional foot stomp). I get it, we’ll pry the stick shift from your cold dead hands but… Some of us have had very good luck with CVTs. I welcome them and only see them as getting better, not worse. Certainly can’t be worse than the GM junk TH-whatever transmissions that would tank at 65k.

    • 0 avatar

      Jump to conclusions much, bucko? My first car was a 1964 Ford Falcon with a 2 speed automatic. It was awful, but it was at least reliable. Now eat your CVT crow and enjoy it. I am glad you like your CVT. And just remember my insults on CVT’s never went to the guys like you who like them – I stuck with the actual product. I suggest you do the same, Bucko.

      • 0 avatar

        I would wager a CVT-equipped Sentra that the average longevity of a Jatco CVT made in 2020 is several times that of a 1960s automatic.

        • 0 avatar

          Nope. Plenty of cases of the JATCO CVTs failing at around 100k. Even back in the ’60s, automatic transmissions typically lasted more than 100k, usually 120-150k. Read all the posts at places like redditjustrolledintotheshop, with the JATCO CVTs torn down for rebuild.

          During my last used car search for one of my kids, I ran across a couple of Sentras with around 100k with CVT problems.

      • 0 avatar

        Ok, got it! That’s a lot of heat for a CVT though.. I have to say, this CVT thing seems to get your goat. What did she do to you man? HAHA

    • 0 avatar

      You haven’t read about the JATCO CVTs in the Nissans. And yeah, I remember transmissions like the Turbo 400 and Turbo 350 (I grew up in the ’60s). Owners were lucky to get 150,000 miles out of them, but we’re talking about 1960s materials and metallurgy. The Powerglide (two-speed) was an exception, and descendants of it are still the go-to choice in some drag racing classes.

      American automatics of the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s definitely had problems (like the infamous THM200), but companies like Aisin made, and make, some of the best transmissions. Nissan cheaped out with the JATCO CVTs, as plenty of second owners of their cars are finding out.

    • 0 avatar

      A number of people who bought cars with a CVT transmission have experienced problems.

      Many of the CVT issues were resolved under warranty, to be fair.

      But once out of warranty, there is no sane reason why anyone would choose to keep a CVT-equipped vehicle.

      It’s been said that CVTs are much better and more reliable today, but why would anyone gamble a second time on a CVT if they experienced a catastrophic failure?

      Several years ago, a lady friend of the family had her Murano’s CVT die twice on her, once under warranty, and once out of warranty. The second time prompted her to buy a new Grand Cherokee 5.7L Limited. She’s a much happier gal now.

      But there was NO market for her broken Murano, except to part out. She ended up selling it to a junk yard for pennies on the dollar for them to part out.

      And they did. After a few months the only thing left was the body shell, sans doors, glass, seats, carpeting, dashboard, engine, etc.
      Seems like there’s always someone in need of used parts and Repair Shops are the biggest customers.

    • 0 avatar

      For me, it isn’t anti-CVT. The CVT in the Corolla is, dare I say it, excellent. The CVT in the Crosstek is meh. The poor quality, rubber banding, and solenoid failures of the Nissan CVT is very well documented.

      In the Maxima the CVT feels darn good, but the reliability history kept one out of my driveway.

      I’ll close with whenever I have a Nissan Altima as a rental, I walk away going, “I don’t get the hatred.” But I also know that the CVT is basically a grenade with the pin pulled in a day and age where most ATs will go 250K miles, easily, with just proper fluid swaps.

      • 0 avatar

        THANK YOU.

        The Toyota CVT absolutely shames what Nissan and Subaru offers people at this price level. Although I don’t love the Civic, its transmission is much better as well. Hell, GM’s CVT in the refreshed Malibu is pretty decent too, especially compared to Nissan/Subaru .

        The argument isn’t “CVTs suck”, it’s that “Nissan’s and Subaru’s CVTs on lower-powered vehicles suck”.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s where I am. I wouldn’t want to own one unless I got the car cheap enough to justify replacing the trans a couple times. I don’t understand why people think it’s so terrible to drive compared to a conventional econobox auto. Wouldn’t call it športy but I would call it competent. I certainly don’t mind them as rentals.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    This CVT thing on here is as old as “why can’t I get a manual transmission, hand crank windows, just an AM radio and no air conditioning” mantra.

    Better Bring back the Crown Vic………….

    Totally tired of it.

  • avatar

    This summer we rented (redesigned) 2019 and 2018 Nissan Altimas back-to-back. The redesigned 2019 Altima was nearly perfect for our great plains roadtrip. Averaging a measured 40 MPG at 75-80 MPG. It was quiet, responsive, comfortable and had great safety features and connectivity. In contrast, the 2018 was merely adequate for less demanding driving in our other trip. If the 2019 Altima is just average for family sedans these days, the curve must be pretty high.

    • 0 avatar

      The curve is pretty high, you’re right about that. But I’ve also rented both 2018s and 2019s and while the 2019 was certainly “improved”, I had no impression it would be more durable, and the interior was still flimsy. Fuel economy is fine, but again, nothing special for the class. Mid-sizers are such excellent values, especially now with their waning popularity.

  • avatar

    Get rid of the toothy grin and it’s almost attractive.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    A guy at work here drives a 1972 Ford Galaxie Convertible in electric blue. Pristine looking too. Every time I see it, I hear the theme from some random 70s cop show playing in my head.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Unless you enjoy owning an endless money pit a CVT in a Nissan is a guarantee of an empty wallet. Nissan use to be great but ever since Renault they are junk.

  • avatar

    If there was an optional engine offered on the upper trim, like a 1.6T that came on a prior Nismo version of the Sentra, we would be less focused on the lackluster CVT.

    Also, for this new 2.0NA, it has less power than the Corolla with the 2.0NA, and the car overall is slower than the old Sentra SE-R with a 2.0NA. Not really keeping up with the competition.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Until Nissan makes a more reliable CVT then it doesn’t really matter what engine is in their cars.

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