Nissan Dealers Hate How It's Become A 'Bargain Basement Brand': Report

Not impressed by Nissan these days? Neither are the American dealers.

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When Makoto Uchida took the reins as Nissan CEO in December, both the company and its newly appointed executive knew there was work to be done. Besides the obvious embarrassments, like former megaboss Carlos Ghosn fleeing Japanese prosecutors in a musical instrument box and a subsequent overhaul of the executive ranks, North American sales have been declining in tandem with the automaker's image. And U.S. dealers aren't mincing words about the situation.

Amid declining sales in a post-Ghosn era, dealers had a recent closed-door meeting with Uchida where they called Nissan a "bargain basement brand," according to Automotive News.

The outlet reports nine dealerships were said to have sent representatives to the meeting at its U.S. headquarters in Nashville, and Uchida was present and looking for criticism, no matter how hard it was to hear. Those who attended the meeting allegedly spent the next 90 minutes becoming the company's harshest critics.

"We gave him an hour and a half of reality," one of the dealers told Automotive News. "We didn't pull any punches. We were brutally honest."

One particular point that dealers called on Uchida for was faster product updates for a rapidly aging lineup. Numerous key Nissan models like the Titan, Rogue, Murano and more have been around for years and lag behind more fresh competitors like Honda and Toyota. That may soon change, however: Nissan is expected to refresh approximately 70 percent of its lineup in the next 18 months.

Dealers aren't convinced that these updates will fix everything, though. They also reportedly requested more marketing resources for a stronger brand identity, which Nissan has lacked in the U.S. for at least a decade or more. Look at any of Nissan's advertisements and you get it: you buy them because of generous discounts and cash-on-hood deals, and not much else.

As for new car sales, dealers asked for additional corporate incentives to help push more vehicles out of the door. They also warned Uchida that the long-term financial impact Nissan would face without financial support for its dealers would be much more significant than what they were asking for.

It's no secret that America's new car market has been in a slump for some time. Nissan has experienced the waves of this industry downturn with weak sales, which fell 9.9 percent from 2018 to 2019. Even its luxury brand felt the heat as Infiniti sales suffered a 21.1 percent drop in the same time frame. This is something especially hard for Nissan, given that North America is its biggest market outside of China; Uchida reportedly acknowledged that the brand's position in the U.S. could make or break the company.

For now, the story says, Uchida is asking dealers for patience. But with the aforementioned sales decline still in effect for nearly all automakers, Nissan had better move quickly if it's going to get back to what it once was.

Read the full report at Automotive News.

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