Nissan had a post-Carlos Ghosn recovery plan before all of this, but that’s all pretty much down the drain at this point. Now, the plan is contraction.
Reuters spoke to two anonymous sources who both said that the company itself, internally, was expecting things to be bad.
But Nissan’s plans for restructuring through March 2023 should be based on the assumption that it would only be able to return to annual sales of 5 million cars by then, two people familiar with the matter said, adding this would entail a large reduction to manufacturing capacity.
That compares with a goal of 6 million cars for the same period outlined in July by then-CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who had already stepped back from around 8 million targeted under Ghosn. Nissan likely sold about 5 million cars in the past financial year but this year’s outlook is bleaker due to the pandemic.
“For years, Nissan was looking for annual sales volumes around 7-8 million vehicles. The company has never managed to sell much more than 5 million or so,” one of the people told Reuters.
Five million is still a pretty hefty number for any automaker, much less one currently in the midst of a complete identity crisis and, of course, a pandemic. And while volume numbers for automakers are notoriously hard to trust, by most accounts Volkswagen and Toyota are on top globally, averaging over 10 million cars, while smaller players like Honda and Fiat Chrysler are in the five million range.
Still, Ghosn’s ambition of getting Nissan up to the Hyundais and GMs of the world was a curious proposition even before his downfall since Nissan has been peddling mediocre products for over a decade now, with seemingly no plan to make them interesting or differentiate them from their competitors. Who dreams of driving off the lot in a brand-new Nissan Maxima? In this economy?!
My best guess is that Nissan has a choice at this particular fork in the road. It could double down on Ghosn’s strategy of chasing pure volume or it could pursue something similar to what Mazda does, which is concede that it is a small player in the game and go niche. Nissan doesn’t really have the tools or know-how to do either, though.