Nissan making money in U.S. again

American sales improve

4 new models are being introduced

Auto industry

May 20, 1999|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

DETROIT -- Nissan Motor Co., Japan's second-largest automaker, returned to profitability in the United States in the year ended March 31 and is introducing four new models to keep momentum in a sales turnaround, its top U.S. marketing executive said yesterday.

Nissan made a $40 million operating profit in the United States, recovering from a $500 million loss the previous year, said Jed Connelly, vice president and general manager of the Nissan division in North America.

The improved U.S. results come as the automaker struggles with lower demand at home. Nissan, which is selling a 37 percent stake to Renault SA for $5.4 billion, said last month that it will cut car-making capacity by one-fourth in Japan.

Its U.S. sales rose 5.6 percent through April, a trend that Connelly expects to continue as the Xterra sport utility and three other models debut this year.

"The Xterra will bring fresh people into our showrooms who haven't been there before," Connelly said.

"It should bring in some younger buyers."

In addition to bringing forth the Xterra, which is derived from the Frontier compact pickup, Nissan plans to introduce a redesigned Maxima sedan, as well as extended-cab and four-door crew cab versions of the Frontier.

Xterra prices are to range from $17,349 to $25,549. Maxima is to cost $21,049 to $26,249. The Frontier extended cab is to run from $11,590 to $18,940, while the crew cab is to range from $17,290 to $19,640.

For Nissan, the sixth-largest automaker in the U.S., the sales gains so far this year reverse a slide.

Its 1998 U.S. sales including the Infiniti luxury division were 411,375, down 13 percent from the year before and 28 percent below the 1985 peak of 575,166.

Nissan struggled in the United States because it had no full-size pickup truck and only one sport-utility vehicle, the Pathfinder, just as many Americans were replacing their cars with trucks.

The Xterra will compete with Jeep Cherokee and Isuzu Rodeo. Nissan will still be without a full-size truck-based utility vehicle to compete with General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL or Ford Motor Co.'s Expedition or Lincoln Navigator.

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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