Nissan’s New Focus: Less Juice, More Practical Use

Nissan Juke
Source: Nissan

Nissan is shifting gears.

The Japanese automaker — which has notably pumped out a good deal of concepts and experimental vehicles over the years — is shifting its strategy. No longer does Nissan, along with its luxury brand Infiniti, plan to focus on its more experimental and creative side. Instead, the company plans to take on a similar focus of some of its chief rivals like Toyota and Honda, by focusing on volume sales of its tested winners.

The announcement comes by way of Automotive News, which reported earlier this week that Nissan and Infiniti will scale back its work on cutting-edge car concepts, and set it sights on increasing its global market share. Nissan’s current market share in the United States, as of the end of 2014 per WardsAuto, is 8.23%, and a record high for the company. That percentage, at least on American soil, has increased solidly stretching back each year into the late 1990s.

In a nutshell, what Automotive News is saying is that we can expect less of this:

Source: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

And a lot more of this:

Source: Nissan

Auto News says that a big part of Nissan’s new strategy is likely connected to the departure of two of the company’s executives, both who were big supporters of Nissan’s more experimental efforts. Product planning head Andy Palmer, who left to join the British automotive company Aston Martin, was joined on his way out the door by former president of Infiniti Johan de Nysschen, who dipped out to take a leadership position at Cadillac. Both men were excited about projects like the BladeGlider and the IDx concept, which both may not see showrooms in their absence.

Source: Nissan

As Nissan’s plans to swipe global market share from competitors across the slate gets underway, the company’s leadership is already ahead of the game, tempering expectations about the coming year’s sales numbers. “I don’t think 2015 is going to be an easy year in the United States,” CEO Carlos Ghosn told members of the media at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, per WardsAuto.

In order to combat what Ghosn is expecting to be a disappointing 2015 campaign, Nissan will be rolling out a new version of its light/heavy-duty pickup, the Titan XD. It’s hoped that the refreshed Titan will be able to at least make a little traction in the pickup truck-crazed U.S. market, where consumers flock toward the Ford F-Series, Ram, and GM’s Chevy Silverado and GMC’s Sierra line in huge numbers.

Even if the Titan is able to develop a little momentum, Nissan still has a fairly steep climb to catch up to the leaders in the U.S. market. GM and Ford lead the way in the Fly Fifty, eating up 17.43% and 14.73% of market share respectively. But again, Nissan is really hoping to take a bite out of fellow Asian automakers like Toyota and Honda. Toyota is hot on the heels of Ford, with 14.15% of the U.S. market, and Honda is holding strong at just over 9%.

It’s fair to question whether those two main rivals also have abandoned their more experimental and cutting-edge vehicles for the sake of higher volume sales, and to some extent, they have. Toyota’s stronger models are mid-size and compact cars like the Camry and Corolla, and the company doesn’t really do a lot in terms of concept cars. There is the FT-1, but Toyota generally sticks to what it’s good at.

As for Honda, the company does have some cutting-edge stuff in the works, including a fuel-cell vehicle, and its luxury line, Acura, is set to release the new NSX. While Honda does go after it a bit more than Toyota, it’s also behind Toyota in U.S. market share by a healthy percentage. Is that because Toyota focuses more on their production models? It’s probably impossible to say definitively, but Nissan’s brass is evidently willing to make that assumption and copy Toyota’s template.

There will be those disappointed in Nissan’s decision to scale back the pizzazz and focus on growth, but such is life in the automotive business. Nissan and Infiniti won’t completely stop building cutting-edge and experimental concepts, but it will leave a noticeable absence at the world’s auto shows. Now, we just have to wait and see if the decision pays off over the next few years.