Nissan gained market share in the US this year, despite a massive earthquake and tsunami in March that shook its headquarters in Japan and temporarily closed its plants. The devastating earthquake killed more than 15,000 people in Japan and disrupted car and truck production for Japan's three largest automakers for several months.
At Nissan's Yokohama headquarters - which felt the quake, although the epicentre was 155 miles (249km) away - an earthquake crisis committee met within minutes, according to a company summary of events. Shortly after that, crisis teams were sent out to Nissan's suppliers and the company quickly figured out which models would be most affected, said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of Nissan in the US
Nissan managed to bring its inventory back to normal levels by July and then worked to get the word out to the public, which had the impression that all Japanese automakers had few vehicles available. "I don't think there is any automotive company that handles a crisis better than we do," Castignetti said. "We hunker down, and we get to the root cause of what is going on, and we make really quick decisions."
In the US, sales have declined 7.5 per cent for Toyota and 5.3 per cent for Honda for the first 11 months of the year. But at Nissan, US sales have increased 15.6 per cent - outpacing the industry's 10.4 per cent gain. Nissan's market share, including its Infiniti luxury brand, grew to 8.2 per cent through November compared with 7.8 per cent last year, and up from 5.8 per cent in 2004.
Now, Nissan has set its sights on overtaking Honda to become the second-biggest Japanese automaker in the US, based on sales. In fact, Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Renault and Nissan, has said Nissan's goal is to achieve a 10 per cent market share in the US. Nissan expects to keep growing in 2012 because it is launching a redesigned Altima midsize sedan and also will soon introduce a redesigned Sentra compact car and Versa subcompact hatchback.
All three models compete in high-volume segments, Castignetti said. Gaining market share will be harder for Nissan in 2012. Toyota has regained two points of market share over the last two months as its production has recovered to pre-earthquake levels. Next year, Toyota is bringing 11 new or revised vehicles to market.
"Not only do you have Toyota and Honda back at full volume ... the new environment is so intensely competitive that substantial gains are really going to be difficult," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive.
Meanwhile, Hyundai and Kia continued their relentless growth this year. Together, the Korean automakers, which share the same parent company, sold 9 per cent of new cars and trucks in the US through November, a gain of 1.2 percentage points over the same period in 2010.
"I think Nissan needs to worry more about Hyundai and Kia than Honda," said Aaron Bragman, automotive analyst for IHS Automotive.
China auto duties not a problem for GM
10 Jan 2012 - AAP
China's punitive anti-dumping duties imposed on luxury cars from abroad have had little impact on General Motors' business there, a top GM executive said.
Although three of GM's top models are subject to the duties, only a small volume is affected, said Tim Lee, GM's head of Asia-Pacific operations.
"It's a miniscule volume for us in China," he told reporters at the Detroit auto show. He put the potential impact at less than 0.5 per cent of the total volume of sales of GM's Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac CTS and Buick Enclave, the three cars affected by the duties.
China declared the duties, which also hit imports from Chrysler, BMW, Mercedes-Benz US International, American Honda Motor and Ford Motor, in December, in what was seen as a tit-for-tat action after Washington moved to have China investigated for dumping solar panels into the United States.
Lee said China had actually quietly set the duties on the US-made cars a year earlier, but then suspended it.
"They were sort of held as a sword of Damocles over our head" and enacted apparently in response to the US move on Chinese-made solar panels.
"There are trade issues between China and the United States that impacted that particular decision," he said.
But it hardly affects the business of GM in China, where the company manufactured and sold around 2.55 million units last year, up more than 8.0 per cent from 2010.
"We, basically, sell what we build in China in China," Lee said.
Lee said the company was still talking with the government over how the duties would be applied. He said the government, in fact, had originally invited GM to sell the Enclave in the country, and so GM is arguing that that particular model should not be affected by the duties.
But, he said, "on the grand scale of the company of General Motors, this is not a big issue".
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