Nissan expects US market share gains this month


Fri, Mar 29, 2013 - Page 15

Nissan said on Wednesday it expects to pick up market share in the all-important US market this month, but it still remains far from its target.

The Japanese automaker expects to sell more than 132,000 cars this month, which would take its market share to 8.8 to 8.9 percent, up from just 7.8 percent in January, Nissan’s director of sales for the US, Jose Munoz, said on the sidelines of the New York Auto Show.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the Nissan-Renault alliance, acknowledged that the company remains far from its target of 10 percent market share in the US by 2016.

“Unless we hit 10 percent market share in the US, we are not getting a fair return on our investment here,” Ghosn said.

Ghosn was hopeful about US sales, but wary of economic trends in Europe.

“We are preparing for three years of no growth in Europe to 2016,” Ghosn said. “We hope we will be wrong.”

The recent drop in the yen gave a boost to the company’s Japan operations, according to Ghosn. The currency’s retreat has enabled Nissan to keep a promise to manufacture a million cars in Japan.

The auto giant hopes to win authorization from the Chinese government this summer to build a plant in China. Ghosn figures that Nissan “lost” about a year’s worth of business due to tensions between Japan and China over contested territory between the two countries.

Anti-Japan protests in China, the world’s biggest auto market, pushed sales lower.

“We had headwinds, we are now coming back,” Ghosn said. “We are bullish on China.”

Separately, Volkswagen Group of America expects US sales to keep growing for the next five years, although its chief executive is tempering expectations a little.

The group has seen blistering growth in the US since 2007, when it set lofty goals for sales of the Volkswagen, Audi and Bentley brands.

It’s more than halfway toward sales targets of 800,000 for the VW brand and 1 million for the group by 2018. The VW brand’s 90 percent sales increase over the past five years is among the largest of any major automaker. Last year there were more than 438,000 VWs sold in the US, up 35 percent over 2011.

However, at the New York Auto Show on Wednesday, group chief Jonathan Browning said the primary reason for setting the goals was to alter the mindset in an organization that was underperforming in the region. He indicated that 1 million is not a hard sales target.