Nissan Wants to Sell More of Murano; Titan on Target

Within the midsize CUV segment, the Nissan Murano was one of the lower-volume models in 2016, outsold by entrants from Chevy, Toyota, Subaru, Ford, Hyundai and Honda.

January 26, 2017

4 Min Read
Nissan Murano holds 20 of midsize CUV segment in Canada but only 10 in US
Nissan Murano holds 20% of midsize CUV segment in Canada, but only 10% in U.S.

DETROIT – While Nissan Murano sales rose a hefty 38.2% last year, the automaker’s U.S. sales chief still is not satisfied.

He wants to sell more Muranos, many more.

“I think we can do a lot more” than the 86,953 sold last year in the U.S., Christian Meunier, senior vice president-sales and marketing for Nissan North America, tells WardsAuto in an interview. “I think the product is very strong (and) I think there’s a lot of upside with Murano. That’s my firm belief.”

Meunier, also chairman of Nissan Canada, took on U.S. responsibilities last year and wants to see the Murano achieve the same kind of market share in the U.S. as it does in the Great White North.

In Canada the Murano holds 20% of the midsize CUV segment, while in the U.S. the Murano commands 10% of the group, he says.

Before its late-2014 launch, Nissan said it wanted the third-generation Murano to gain ground against the Ford Edge, at the time the leading seller among midsize CUVs in the U.S., by offering an Edge-matching wide range of trim levels and prices.

That strategy appears to have failed to move the needle much, maybe because the competitive set has shifted and the Edge no longer is on top.

Chevy’s Equinox was the No.1 seller among D-segment CUVs last year, WardsAuto data shows, with 242,195 sales, while Asian brands take four of the top six slots – the Toyota Highlander (191,379), Subaru Outback (182,898), Ford Edge (134,588), Hyundai Santa Fe (131,257) and Honda Pilot (120,772).

Nissan moved 13,834 Murano CUVs in Canada in 2016, exceeding the Pilot, Outback and Highlander. The No.1 seller among competitors was the Santa Fe, with 32,263 deliveries.

Meunier links Murano’s low U.S. volume to marketing, or lack thereof. “We need to market it more. We have not made it up-front in our marketing as we could have,” he says.

Nissan this year is shifting capacity toward light trucks, with the Murano expected to command a higher percentage of output at Nissan’s Canton, MS, plant and the Altima midsize sedan assembled there ceding some units.

Meanwhile, Nissan is expecting a good year overall for its light-truck lineup, which includes the recently refreshed Rogue compact CUV, whose sales rose 14.9% in 2016 to 329,904.

“We’re probably going to be aligning ourselves more toward (a 60% light-truck share), especially with the (small) Rogue Sport (CUV) coming in, plus the Titan obviously, which is right in the middle of the ramp-up,” Meunier says. Last year, Nissan’s light-truck and car sales were split 55/45.

“We’re going to really promote our crossover lineup as well, a lot, and we’re really going to grow our trucks,” he says.

Annual U.S. volume of 100,000 still is the goal for the Titan fullsize pickup, he says, but even with the launch of the king cab model this year Nissan may not get there until 2018. Titan sales tallied 21,880 in 2016, an 80.2% jump from 2015.

“We lost a lot of ground on the previous generation,” he says. “We have a lot of ambitions, but I think it’s happening. Nissan doesn’t like to wait too much, but I think on the truck segment we need to be patient, because it’s all about building the blocks, one after the other.”

As other Nissan executives have said, Meunier cites as critical Nissan training dealers on how to sell fullsize pickups to consumers, as well as grassroots marketing.

“The grassroots (element) is very key. Because you have a nice national TV ad (doesn’t mean) all of sudden people are going to rush to buy your truck. People have been used to buying certain brands for many, many, many years. You don’t change that overnight,” he says.

Nissan is forecasting a flat U.S. seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for 2017, noting a strong stock market is being tempered by higher interest rates.

Keeping car sales up will be a challenge for many automakers, as buyers interested in new vehicles increasingly are choosing light trucks, specifically CUVs.

While Meunier hopes for “reason” in the midsize-sedan segment, he infers Nissan will keep pace on incentives to move inventory if necessary. “We will defend the position of Altima in the marketplace,” he says.

Altima sales fell 7.8% last year to 307,380 and the car yielded its perch as Nissan’s No.1 seller to the Rogue.

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