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Nissan: Light at the End of Its Tunnel?

North America is destined to play a key role in the worldwide recovery of troubled Japanese car maker, Nissan.

North America is destined to play a key role in the worldwide recovery of troubled Japanese car maker, Nissan. Since its partnership with Renault, Carlos Ghosn, the Japanese company's feisty French CEO, has been laying the groundwork to put debt-ridden Nissan back on its feet.

Xterra
The Xterra (this, an XE 4x4) is helping Nissan's position in the U.S. market, which is a key market for Nissan, according to CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Known as the "Nissan Revival Plan," Ghosn's scheme involves supporting strong selling new models in the U.S., such as the Xterra and Maxima, with expanded manufacturing capacity. The move would counterbalance plans to scale back manufacturing operations in Japan and demonstrates the importance of the booming U.S. car and truck market to Nissan's overall future.

Speaking recently in New York, Ghosn spelled out some of the progress made in implementing the Nissan Revival Plan and hinted at future product developments. "The U.S. market continues to be strong and is developing faster than we expected. But we have a steady flow of new products; the Maxima is selling strongly and the Xterra is continuing its success; it's really a category killer in the compact sport utility vehicle sector. We also have the Crew Cab pickup that is doing very well and we have growth in the Infiniti luxury division fueled by the new I30. All these products have strengthened the entire Nissan and Infiniti lineups and boosted the brand a little bit."

Ghosn said Nissan is preparing to launch 22 all-new products over the next three years. "We have them in the pipeline. I'm not talking about derivatives, I'm not talking about face-lifts, I'm talking about only brand new products. At least 10 of these products will be destined for the U.S. During 2000, you will see the Sentra in North America with improved positioning and increased volume. The new Infiniti Q45 is coming as well as major face-lifts on the Frontier truck pick-up, including the Crew Cab."

Over the last couple of years, Nissan has seen a major shift in its car versus truck vehicle mix from 29% trucks in 1998 to 47% trucks today. Part of that shift has been fed by the success of the Xterra SUV and as a result Ghosn said Nissan is doubling Xterra manufacturing capacity in the U.S. to more than 110,000 units annually. Ghosn added that he has given the "green light" to an important new product for Nissan's U.S. line-up, the company's first full-size, V8-powered pick-up truck. Obviously Nissan hopes to emulate Toyota's successful—if limited—recent entry into the lucrative full-size truck market with the V8 Tundra. "With the launch of the full-size truck we will be competing in all the segments of the U.S. market. The V8 engine will be new and designed by Nissan."

Speaking about the successful Xterra, Ghosn said there are plans to sell the compact sport utility vehicle outside the United States. "But for the moment we are giving the U.S. market priority. We have doubled the capacity of Xterra, and we are still struggling to try to increase production to meet the demand. When we reach the level of the demand on the market, we will start selling the Xterra elsewhere. The most probable market to sell the Xterra will be Europe." Ghosn added that outside the U.S. the Xterra could be sold with a Nissan or a Renault badge.

Ghosn declared: "Nissan today is in the dark, working hard. We know the light is not very far. We still don't see it, but we know it's not far away. But in our search for this light we hope to bring amazement and delight again to our markets."

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