U.S. to Play Beefier Role in Nissan's Future; Company Shakes Up North American Leadership

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
u s to play beefier role in nissans future company shakes up north american

A struggling Nissan sees the U.S. market playing a bigger role in the company’s sales future. Ahead of the release of its near-term recovery plan, expected later this month, the automaker sees new product as the key to firming up its flagging U.S. presence.

Elsewhere, a report out Friday claims Nissan’s new plan will see the U.S. account for a third of the automaker’s global volume. With all of this in the works, it’s perhaps no surprise that the company’s North American arm saw a sudden resignation.

Speaking to Reuters, sources with knowledge of the plan say the U.S. and China will each account of a third of the company’s volume (U.S. share rises from 25 percent today), with everywhere else — Europe, other Asian markets, Russia, and Latin America — seeing their share fall from 45 percent today to a third.

Word of this plan leaked earlier this year, as Nissan attempted to forge a path out of a global sales retraction and profit loss made all the more worse by the arrival of COVID-19. The company’s workforce and R&D spending will see a haircut, production volume will be cut going forward, and both Nissan and alliance partner Renault will focus on their strengths. Models that work in some markets will continue to be sold there, minus unnecessary, slower-selling stablemates.

In an interview with Automotive News, Nissan’s chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, called the U.S. a “great market” where the company will focus on three strategies: product, dealers, and “brand power.” The first of the three efforts is well underway, as seen by revamped models like the Altima, Versa, and Sentra. (The Rogue is next, followed by the Frontier and Armada.)

Greater standard content and fewer build configurations is now the name of the game, with focus placed on fewer fleet sales.

Gupta promised eight new products over the next 28 months, a move he says will reduce the average model age in Nissan’s lineup to 3.3 to 3.5 years. Despite overall sales figures deep-sixed by the coronavirus lockdown, Gupta added that Sentra’s retail share increased in April compared to the previous year.

“This product strategy, which is focused on new products with advanced technology, will bring the momentum in the U.S. market,” Gupta said. The COO then went out of his way to celebrate the brand’s dealer network, calling them “the face of our customer.” If you’ll recall, American dealers gave the company’s newly minted CEO an earful over the winter.

“If the product and dealers are great, they need to be connected by a transparent and sustainable business mechanism,” Gupta said. “In mid-February, we launched the Nissan Drive 2020 dealer support plan — a very comprehensive package designed to support the dealer.”

As for brand recognition, Nissan is well-known as a purveyor of value products — which doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. However, Nissan wants more brand power, preferring to be known as much for quality and accolades as its affordability. That power will come from new product, Gupta claims.

On Friday, Nissan announced the resignation of its North American president and chairman, José Luis Valls. His departure date is June 15th. Into the vice chairman role steps Jérémie Papin (seen above, on the left), who joined Nissan North America as its administration and finance chief in 2018 after serving as global finance director of the broader Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

Working beneath Papin will be Mike Colleran (same photo, on the right), current Nissan corporate vice president and global chairman of the Infiniti division. Colleran was appointed senior vice president for Nissan U.S. effective June 1st.

[Images: Nissan]

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2 of 19 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 16, 2020

    Agree, many buyers don't even know how many cylinders are under the hood either. Nissan's problems are much greater than what type of structure their vehicle has. Nissan's quality really took a nosedive with their partnership with Renault.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on May 18, 2020

    So there's more suckers in the US and China? I believe it.

  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers.