The sedan's savior could come from an unlikely source.
It was a curious thing to watch Nissan introduce an all-new Altima that signaled how the brand was past its days of mediocrity. While at the same time keeping the Rogue’s 2017 facelift so light that it didn’t solve the car’s mundane driving experience - even though the crossover became Nissan’s best-seller in 2016. The main question in our minds was: why focus on the slower seller that’s in a declining segment and not put the energy into ensuring the sales leader in the growing segment is in top shape?
Apparently, it's because Nissan still has hope for the future of the sedan because millennials are on a mission to save it. According to a recent study commissioned by Nissan, most American buyers would consider a sedan for their next car purchase. But the rates of sedan acceptance go higher as you move down to the age range.
The study claims that 78% of drivers who don’t currently own a sedan would consider buying one for their next car. Rates among older millennials and members of Generation X (aged 35-50 years) were higher, with 81% saying they’d consider purchasing a sedan, while a full 86% of younger millennials and members of Generation Z (ages 18-34 years) said they’d be interested in breaking the crossover’s spell on the market.
"We see great opportunity in the sedan segment, which is why we're continuing to launch all-new and refreshed products," said Rob Warren, the director and chief marketing manager at Nissan North America. "Sedans are still extremely popular with our customers, so as our competitors exit the category, they're creating even more prospects for Nissan.”
Given that Nissan unveiled the new Versa along with a refreshed Maxima and an all-new Altima, it’s clear the brand is far from giving up on sedans. And that might just prove to be a smart move on Nissan’s part. With the competition focusing major energy on building SUVs, some brands may slip behind with their small-, mid-, and full-size sedan offerings. That would be a mistake since sedans still make up a significant portion of new car sales. If Nissan’s study is indicative of anything, it’s that those sedan take rates will only increase.
"What we're hearing from younger buyers is that they appreciate the features, versatility, fuel economy and value in our sedans," said Warren. "Sedan design has also come a long way, as these traditional four-door cars shed their generic look, add more technology and take on a more aggressive, stylish profile. As sedans become more exciting to look at and to drive, younger buyers are putting sedans at the top of their consideration list." We'll learn soon enough whether this is enough to bring Nissan back from "rock bottom."