Once they were driven

Nissan sales are booming — in the last decade they’ve boosted their US market share from about four percent to twice that — yet they get no press to speak of, and their product line ranges from ancient (Sentra) to anodyne (Altima) to alarming (Murano CrossCabrio). TTAC’s Edward Niedermeyer brought up the “ancient” issue with a Nissan official, and got this as a response:

Nissan’s VP for Communications David Reuter told us that this fact was what made him so optimistic about Nissan’s future. If sales are doing this well with product this old, he wondered aloud, what might happen if … say, models representing 75% of Nissan’s sales volume were replaced in a two-year span? He admitted that one of the brand’s biggest issues was breaking through the Honda-Toyota monopoly on media perceptions of Japanese automakers, and he suggested that a new product blitz was the only way to really accomplish that. I was reminded of the current darling of the mass-market brands, Hyundai, which grew sales steadily with aging and stolid but value-laden products, before replacing its entire lineup with eye-catching new models. Could a fresh batch of new designs do the same for Nissan?

Hard to say for sure. The funky little Cube isn’t selling all that well, but the far-funkier and no-less-little Juke is making bank. And the new Versa, unapologetically cheap, is scoring well with people who’d otherwise be buying a three-year-old Civic but live in constant fear of timing belts, a market far larger than I’d ever realized.

I think one thing holding the Hamburger back is its obsession with CVTs: even the Maxima, the ostensible “four-door sports car,” is saddled with one of these contraptions, and once you’ve seen the tach sitting at 4800 the entire time you’ve been climbing the onramp, you don’t particularly want to see it again. If they’re going to ask just-under-Infiniti money for this thing, they might as well bolt in Infiniti’s seven-speed auto and be done with it.

And I think the Frontier pickup, like every other pickup in the market, has been bloated beyond recognition. Were it not for that damned chicken tax, they could bring in a nice small truck, the kind that made their name in the States.

Except, of course, that their name at the time was “Datsun.”





6 comments

  1. McGehee »

    2 November 2011 · 12:50 pm

    I keep seeing where Toyota is considered the winner for reliability, even though used Hondas are hardly less expensive than new ones, and I’ve been very impressed with rented Nissans and loaner Subarus.

    But with our menagerie my next vehicle will have to be a minivan.

    I’m hoping for a Sienna.

  2. Nicole »

    2 November 2011 · 6:54 pm

    I test drove a Juke recently. Damn fun little car. Too little for my needs and not good enough mpg when you stomp it, which, with as fun as it is to drive, I would be doing frequently. A bit more money than I want to pay for the hp that it had as well.

    If I were to buy a new car (something far from decided who will get the new car in the family) it would be a Nissan. Probably a Rogue. If the hub gets the new vehicle, though, it will likely be a Toyota FJ Cruiser. Then I get his Infiniti. A win for everyone. :)

  3. CGHill »

    2 November 2011 · 7:46 pm

    I’m rather amused by the Cube, and if they’d put a powertrain less prone to dawdling in it, I’d actually consider buying one, just for S&G potential.

    The little Infiniti sort-of-wagon (EX35) sometimes calls my name, just to see if I’m paying attention.

  4. Nicole »

    2 November 2011 · 8:28 pm

    I did test drive a Cube. It was pretty sloshy on the handling. Tons and tons of room, I’ll give it that. But I just can’t take a vehicle seriously that has a shag carpet circle on the dash that serves no purpose at all and comes with bungee cords included to strap your mail to the passenger side door while you take it to the post office. :)

  5. Ric Locke »

    2 November 2011 · 11:54 pm

    Nicole,

    That’s just it. If you’re taking it seriously, you’re not in the marketing demographic for the Cube.

    Nissan has always had a touch of whimsy. When I was in the Navy in the early 70s a friend had a Datsun 2000, which was a one-for-one deliberate imitation of later model MGs, except that the electrics worked. It even had a panel of walnut in the dash, though it wasn’t burled. But — if you pulled the light switch a little harder than needful, the lights would go out just as if it had genuine Lucas fittings. I swear they did it deliberately.

    Regards,
    Ric

  6. Scott »

    3 November 2011 · 5:44 am

    Only-slightly-related digression: here in Texas, the Frontier is the Bro-Tastic!(tm) Truck of the Decade…inevitably driven badly by children wearing baseball caps backwards. I’ve yet to see one full of hay or t-posts or even a kayak, or pulling the deer-lease trailer with ATV & ice chests.

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