Bravo, Nissan. Bravo.
While other automakers are letting go of the wheel in the face of the massive demand for crossovers, Nissan is steering into the skid. We've just seen the bigger and bolder Nissan Versa redesign and know about its upgrade in standard technology. Following that, the Nissan Sentra is getting a refresh that goes beyond the aesthetic and into the powertrain.
Neither is a half-hearted effort to keep small cars in the market according to Automotive Newsfollowing an interview with Scott Shirley, Nissan's vice president.
Nissan is going against the grain of the sales numbers as crossovers continue to cannibalize car sales, but Nissan recognizes there's still a core of customers. "We still see in these segments 5 million car sales a year," Shirley tells Automotive News. "We are redoubling our forecast; we are concentrating on delivering much better value, much stronger product to the market and a much better ownership experience."
The basis of Nissan's approach comes down to the fact that first time car-buyers on a budget need low-cost cars, and that cost can't be matched by a crossover. That's the target demographic for Nissan's small cars, and it continues to serve the automaker well. Last year the Sentra and Versa made up 13.4 percent of US small-car market sales in 2018, and that's an increase of 10.9 percent since 2014. As other automakers drop their small sedans and hatchbacks, they're leaving money on the table for Nissan to quietly sweep up.
The other angle Nissan is playing includes offering value for money. The upcoming Sentra refresh should also feature, like the Versa, standard technology that usually comes in more upmarket vehicles.
The brand is also continuing to steer clear of fleet sales as much as possible as that's a place where profit margins are slim. The cost there is in market share but, according to Automotive News, the fleet market still makes up between 20 and 25 percent of Sentra and Versa sales. According to Shirley, it's a question of balance, saying: "We also recognize that there is a profitable, rational level of fleet that can be done as well."