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Management Q&A

Nissan Future

Jack Collins talks about where the automaker is heading in key U.S. segments.

Jack Collins, Nissan vice president, product planning
The redesign of the Altima has clearly been a big success for Nissan. Not only is the new shape much edgier and performance based, sales are up too.

But this was just one of the first vehicles in a long lineup from Nissan that revitalized its family.

The return of the Z has been huge as well. The new shape coupled with an aggressive ad campaign is making everybody want to ‘Shift their own 350. There is also a short film teaser for a DVD called “The Run” featuring the 350Z running at movie theaters. It shows a brightly colored 350Z attacking European roads from under the front bumper. The car evokes emotion which is being parlayed into a tangible energy source that seems to have spread throughout the Nissan brand image.

With that new found energy and presence come even more new models and redesigns. Enter the Murano, Titan, the revamped Maxima, the Pathfinder Armada and a topless 350Z.

Recently Jack Collins, vice president of product planning for Nissan, sat down with Automotive Industries’ to share Nissan’s thoughts on all that’s afoot, including sales increases, NASCAR and big and small trucks.

Q: As part of Nissan’s 180 plan, North America will contribute 300,000 vehicles to the additional 1 million worldwide sales. Where will those sales come from?
A: We haven’t broken down specifically where they will come from but obviously we’re going into vehicles like the Murano and the crossover SUV segment that we previously did not compete in. Also, the full-size truck and SUV segment where we did not compete, so a lot of the sales will be coming from these new products. But then we are also getting growth in existing products like the Altima, which previously we were selling about 140,000 a year. Last year we sold a couple hundred thousand. So we anticipate growth in existing models as well and that’s where the projection comes from.

Q: With Maxima on line, Nissan has basically filled out the sedan line-up. Do you see any market holes that still need to be filled?
A: We are in the process of doing that with the vehicle that we are adding. We want to be represented every place we can sell cars and trucks profitably. We are continuing to explore other opportunities which we do believe are out there. I can’t be specific on that but I can tell you that we are not out of opportunities yet.

Q: Given the rapid decline of the small truck segment, how will the next Frontier fit into the truck line-up?
A: The small truck market has definitely declined the last 18-24 months. In our case with Frontier, our current share of segment is about 9.5 to 10 percent of the segment so we’re doing very, very well with Frontier against a rapidly shrinking segment. So from a performance against opportunity point of view we’re really happy with Frontier because we’re usually about a 4.5 percent share company. Good news is, Frontier is really strong. The bad news is, that market is shrinking.

Q: Is there any plan to bring Renault back to North America?
A: No.

Q: Toyota is preparing to enter NASCAR’s truck and Winston Cup divisions. Is this a possibility?
A: Well, the key word here is possibly. NASCAR uses pushrod engines and at the moment we don’t make one. So we don’t have any engine that would facilitate entry to that series.

Q: With Z-car’s performance heritage, are there any thoughts of creating an SVTlike division to do specialty performance versions of cars and trucks?
A: We don’t have plans for that kind of a program. We have announced plans to bring a line of Nismo high-performance parts to the U.S. Those parts will be available on a vehicle like Z through the dealership and that’s in the process of rolling out this year.

Q: GM just announced that they’re going to put V-8’s in Impala and Monte Carlo. Will we see a V-8 powered Maxima?
A: We don’t have any plans for a V-8 in the Maxima. Our V-6 generates more power than most people’s V-8’s anyway.

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