LOS ANGELES — Nissan's hopes of shedding its bargain-brand reputation and regaining market share hinge on a raft of product reboots, Nissan executives said on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The product revival started with the unveiling of the redesigned 2020 Sentra, and it will encompass 10 new and freshened vehicles by the end of 2020, including an electric crossover.
"New products are going to be critical" to turn the business around, David Kershaw, Nissan division vice president of sales and regional operations, told Automotive News.
By developing more "aspirational products," Nissan hopes to attract more creditworthy customers and reduce the need for discounting, which has harmed the brand's image and wreaked havoc on dealer margins.
Nissan division's U.S. sales through October tumbled 6 percent, and the automaker's 7.5 percent share of the U.S. market through three quarters trailed rivals Toyota (12.3 percent) and Honda (8.6 percent), according to the Automotive News Data Center. Meanwhile, about 30 percent of Nissan's U.S. dealerships are losing money, with an additional 10 percent merely breaking even, a person familiar with the data said this summer.
The latest model reboot was revealed last week. The Sentra compact sedan amps up in power and design, hoping to capture more of the evaporating market for sedans. Riding on a new platform, the eighth-generation Sentra is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 149 hp, up 19 percent from the current generation's 1.8-liter engine.
The revamp across the portfolio, including redesigns of crossovers and pickups, aims to improve the brand's appeal to consumers.
"Going from somewhat of the oldest lineup in the industry, at least of the Asian brands, this will be an opportunity for us to have some fresh things that are out there," Kershaw said. "We are going to really talk about the attributes of our product and what's important to the customer — technology and safety obviously being key drivers of that."
Ford spokesman Mike Levine did not respond to a request for comment, but tweeted out a GIF of a laughing Ryan Gosling.
Analysts following the reveal were skeptical the vehicle could make a dent in the lucrative pickup segment, especially with Ford and General Motors both working on their own electric pickups.
GM CEO Mary Barra said the automaker's first electric pickup truck model will go on sale in the fall of 2021. "It will be a very capable truck, I'm pretty excited about it," Barra said at an investor conference in New York on Thursday.
Ford aims to sell an electric F-series in late 2021, Reuters reported.
Electric pickups and SUVs could help Ford and GM generate the significant EV sales they will need to meet tougher emission standards and EV mandates in California and other states. The Trump administration is moving to roll back those standards, but electric trucks are a hedge if California prevails
Demand for full-size electric pickups in the near term may not be huge. Industry tracking firm IHSMarkit estimates the electric truck segment - both full- and midsize models - will account for about 75,000 sales in 2026, compared with an expected 3 million light trucks overall. The Tesla pickup is not part of that estimate.
Tesla's pickup "will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today," Matt DeLorenzo, senior executive editor at Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. "The other downside is that this truck will have no federal tax credits by the time it comes out.”
Tesla's Model 3 sedan is the world's top-selling battery electric car. The California-based automaker has so far sold mostly Model S and Model 3 sedans, but also offers the Model X SUV and starting next year the Model Y compact SUV.
Reactions on Twitter ranged from love to hate of Tesla's sharply angled vehicle.
"I just watched tesla release the #cybertruck and honestly? My life feels complete," wrote @aidan_tenud, while @nateallensnyde wrote "Its nice to see Elon Musk make a cardboard box car he drew in kindergarten."
Musk earlier tweeted that the design was partly influenced by the Lotus Esprit sports-car that doubled as a submarine in the 1970s James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me" as well as by the movie Blade Runner.