Nissan’s Munoz Forecasts Stable 2018 Sales

“We are pleased to see that the U.S. economy is quite strong, all the fundamentals are there, so we are betting on a stable market around 16.9 million or 17 million units,” the executive tells WardsAuto.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

January 16, 2018

2 Min Read
Munoz with rugged XMotion concept
Munoz with rugged XMotion concept.

DETROIT – Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz expects another banner year for U.S. light-vehicle sales, and while the Japanese automaker will continue to invest in its manufacturing operations he does not see any capacity expansion coming soon.

“We are pleased to see that the U.S. economy is quite strong, all the fundamentals are there, so we are betting on a stable market around 16.9 million or 17 million units,” Munoz tells WardsAuto after unveiling the Nissan XMotion concept CUV.

Automakers sold 17.1 million cars and trucks in the U.S. last year, down 1.9% from a record 17.5 million in 2016. Most industry analysts agree the decline marks an end to a 7-year flurry of new light-vehicle sales but, like Munoz, expect a soft landing.

WardsAuto forecasts industry sales to start relatively strong in January, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.2 million units.

Munoz says Nissan, which including its Infiniti premium brand saw sales grow 1.9% to 1.6 million in 2017, has taken advantage of the shift in consumer demand to trucks away from cars. The automaker’s light-truck sales, including crossovers, soared 12.8% to 871,934. Its car sales tumbled 8.8% to 721,530, reflecting a market where trucks comprised 64.5% of sales last year.

“We are happy to see the transition from cars to trucks,” Munoz says, calling out the Nissan Rogue as particularly benefiting from the shift. “We have taken advantage of that.”

Rogue sales, including a newly added Sport model, exploded to 403,465 copies and the crossover became Nissan’s best-selling U.S. model. It was the fifth best-seller in the industry, too, going so far as to surpass the longtime stalwart Toyota Camry.

But despite robust demand for Nissan’s vehicles and President Trump’s call for automakers to slash imports, Munoz says there are no plans to add capacity to the automaker’s assembly plants in Canton, MS, or Smyrna, TN. Together the two facilities can produce nearly 1.1 million vehicles annually.

“Right now we don’t,” Munoz says of the potential to increase output. “However, if we continue to see a strong domestic market and continue to grow the business in a healthy and profitable way, eventually we may. But before that, we need to make the most out of the available capacity.”

Speaking of the XMotion, Munoz declines to say whether it will become the next-generation Rogue or Pathfinder, choosing instead to say elements of the concept will make their way into a number of future Nissan products.

“So far, this is a concept (and) the ultimate expression of future Nissan crossovers,” he says.

The crossover is decidedly more rugged than any current Nissan offering and Munoz says the styling reflects growing consumer preferences for an off-road look.

“We see this as a trend,” he says. “We like it and we want to get the most out of this expression.”

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