Nissan's Big Gamble Could Expose Ford's Possibly Wrong Decision

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Attention all angry Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze owners.

The redesigned 2020 Nissan Sentra debuted last week at the LA Auto Show to much acclaim. While the outgoing generation was not much of a looker, its successor is exactly the opposite. Nissan is using the new Sentra, along with 10 other new and updated models, to help rebuild its brand image. An all-electric crossover is also set to debut by the end of next year. But it's the new Sentra that's gathering some solid reviews thanks to its high-end exterior and interior designs. It's no longer just basic transportation. And unlike Ford and its now-discontinued Focus and Fusion, Nissan is doubling down on its sedans, which began with the redesigned 2019 Altima earlier this year.

Automotive News learned from Nissan division vice president of sales, David Kershaw, that "New product like the Sentra are going to be crucial" to improve sales.

Front Angle View Nissan
Rear Angle View Nissan/Mike Ditz
Front Angle View Nissan

Kershaw added the Japanese automaker wants to develop more "aspirational products" to attract higher-quality customers, instead of those with not so good credit. Basically, Nissan has become known for its heavy discounting in order to keep sales afloat. The problem is this method hurts its image and put a serious dent in dealership profit margins. For example, through last month, Nissan's sales dropped 6 percent. It currently has only a 7.5 percent market share in the US, compared to Toyota's 12.3 percent and Honda's 8.6 percent. At the same time, 30 percent of Nissan's US dealerships are losing money. Another 10 percent are only breaking even.

The 2020 Sentra, therefore, has big sales expectations and it sounds like Nissan did its homework. It rides on a new platform and comes powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 149 horsepower – a 19 percent increase over the outgoing model's 1.8-liter four-pot.

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"Going from somewhat of the oldest lineup in the industry, at least of the Asian brands, this will be an opportunity for us to have some fresh things that are out there," Kershaw said. "We are going to really talk about the attributes of our product and what's important to the customer - technology and safety obviously being key drivers of that."

The Sentra also happens to be Nissan's second-best seller in the past year, behind the Rogue crossover. And like what was said of the new Altima when it premiered, Nissan executives refuse to give up on sedans, despite the fact the segment has been shrinking. "There is strength in the sedan market," Kershaw added. "We think there's opportunity in that segment." With the Ford Focus and Fusion, and Chevrolet Cruze now out of the picture, Nissan aims to accommodate a chunk of buyers who don't want crossovers for numerous reasons. And by the looks of it, the 2020 Nissan Sentra will deliver the goods.

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