Nissan's big sales dip in April shouldn't have surprised anybody

Nissan's big sales dip in April shouldn't have surprised anybody

Nissan Altima 7

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The new Nissan Altima.

  • Nissan saw an April sales collapse in the US.
  • Buzz around the industry has been that Nissan was spending heavily on incentives.
  • The carmaker has a weak portfolio of vehicles in the US.

April auto sales, even with General Motors dropping out of monthly reporting, were robust. The US market is on track to post another year in which 17 million vehicles roll off dealer lots.

According to Bloomberg, the outlier in this story was Nissan.


"The Japanese automaker's deliveries plummeted 28 percent last month, as almost every model in the Nissan and Infiniti lineups declined," Bloomberg noted.

The negative buzz around Nissan for the better part of a year has been that the automaker has spent generously to hold its US market share, now around 10%.

The carmaker, part of a three-way alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, has been fortunate to be selling a popular compact SUV, the Rogue, in the US at a time when compact SUV sales have boomed. But the rest of the Nissan lineup in North America is challenged.


There are five sedans and an aging lineup of sports cars. The Pathfinder mid-size SUV has sold relatively well, but the segment is so competitive - and the Pathfinder itself so old, running on a 2013 design - that Nissan's apparent curtailment of incentives in April tanked sales by thousands of units.

Same story with the Titan full-size pickup, sales of which also fell off a cliff in April. The Titan is invisible in its segment: Ford's F-Series outsells it 30 to one.

As for Infiniti, the vehicles Nissan's luxury arm sells are pretty solid, but they're up against the Mercedes-BMW-Lexus-Audi juggernaut and have to fight it out on the next rung down with Acura, Buick, Jaguar, and Lincoln.


Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi's strategy is global, and that led it to win the worldwide sales crown in 2017. But in the US - the world's most competitive market - Nissan has a classic product problem. Its cars and trucks are good enough to convince buyers to take a look. But then those buyers need some financial urging to bet on the brand.

That dynamic has finally caught up with the company.