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Nissan Tells Us How It Blew It

It’s no secret that Nissan is in trouble. A full year after coming to grips with its plight it is struggling to regain some of its lost glory when cars like the ZX, Sentra, and GT-R were class-leading. It’s still losing a wad of money but it has taken significant steps to staunch the bleeding. Now Nissan’s new chief operating officer tells us how Nissan blew it.

In 2019 Nissan had $400 million in operating losses. It also saw its CEO, Carlos Ghosn, arrested over claims of fraud and other misdeeds. That’s about the time Nissan also saw its fortunes start sinking rapidly. 

Nissan is pulling out of some markets while doubling down in its core countries

A silver Nissan logo as seen on the silver grille of a vehicle
Nissan logo | Nissan

Now in the midst of a global turnaround plan, it is pulling out of some markets while doubling down in its core countries. That means North America, China, and its home market Japan. It is winding down expansion in Europe letting alliance partner Renault take that market. It has also killed the economy-priced Datsun brand in Russia. 

In an interview with the UK’s Car magazine chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta spells out what the company has done wrong and what it’s doing to right the ship. “We went too fast to expand in the world, anticipating that global auto markets would grow and that our sales performance would be excellent. Both those things didn’t happen,” he says. “When rubber touches the ground you smell the smoke. As a result, we were landed with aged vehicles and a huge line-up which we could not maintain. It’s all based on investment: if you don’t have the revenue you can’t have [new] cars. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Some of those cost-cutting measures include closing some assembly plants and thinking in terms of economy of scale advantages with partners Renault and Mitsubishi. For the most part, the three companies were developing cars separately instead of taking advantage of using common engines, platforms, and procurement. 

Nissan will take the lead in EVs, sports cars, and larger vehicles moving forward

2020 Nissan Titan is on display at the 112th Annual Chicago Auto Show at
2020 Nissan Titan | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

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In America, Nissan will take the lead in EVs, sports cars, and larger vehicles moving forward. It will also take a stab at vans and their offshoots. That means a new Frontier midsize truck in 2021, a major redesign for the Pathfinder, and success with its all-new Rogue. 

There are still, however, many aged platforms to address. While the upcoming 400Z looks new, it is still the current platform. Its Titan pickup saw some upgrades in 2019 but is quite an old platform. The once-incredible GT-R is 14 years old without significant changes. 

While it seemed that Nissan was avoiding looking into the mirror, it has been forced to address its shortcomings and fix what it can. That process is underway and 2021 should give us and Nissan some much-needed vigor as it tries to move forward from a disastrous 2020.