Nissan America Boss Sets Sights on Increasing Sales in U.S., Brazil

The biggest challenge currently faced by Nissan America chairman Colin Dodge is that of reviving sales in Brazil. Nissan weathered the 2008-2010 global economic crisis better than many other automakers and has since increased its share of other markets, including the U.S. and Mexico.  In fact, the company is increasing its U.S. production capacity by hiring 1,000 workers at its Smyrna, Tennessee plant and it currently controls a whopping twenty-five percent of the Mexico market.

Despite its successes in North America, Nissan has struggled to gain a foothold in the booming Brazil market. The company reports only a 1.7 percent market share in Brazil.

Last month, Nissan announced that it plans to invest $1.5 billion to build a new factory in Brazil and to introduce 10 new models over the next five years.

In addition to jump starting sales in Brazil, Dodge has also set his sights on the goal of unseating Honda as the No. 2 import brand in the U.S.  In a recent interview, Dodge said, “There are only two countries in the world that Honda outsells us, and that’s Thailand and America,” adding, “In Europe, we can beat Honda and Toyota.”

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hamstrung Toyota and Honda created a rare opportunity for Nissan to increase its U.S. market share and the company took full advantage. While Honda and Toyota struggled to overcome production and delivery challenges, Nissan prodded its U.S. dealers to step up their game and sell more aggressively.

The Nissan Altima mid-sized sedan has outsold Honda’s flagship Accord sedan in the U.S. for the past six months. In October, the Toyota Camry outsold the Altima in the U.S. by a mere 206 units.

Dodge says, “One of the reasons we’re doing better than the competition is that we’re making decisions quicker than we used to. If you’ve got your act together, you can really be competitive in America.”

That’s a lesson Toyota learned the hard way when it was forced to recall upwards of six million vehicles worldwide to address concerns about unintended acceleration in a number of Toyota and Lexus models. Last May, Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda told reporters, “Toyota doesn’t go about hiding things and trying to deceive people. But if you are looking from the outside, and we are taking a long time to give a response or do something, they come to the conclusion that maybe we are hiding something.”

Dodge is confident in Nissan’s ability to sustain its recent sales trajectory. “We’ve got all the technology available in the world,” he says, “There’s nothing we haven’t got. There’s nothing left except a little bit of time required to get our sales experience and brand power up for us to naturally take 10 percent of the American market.” At the first of this month, Nissan’s U.S. market share stood at 8.1 percent.

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