Nissan Wants To Pivot To Making Good Cars People Want To Buy

Illustration for article titled Nissan Wants To Pivot To Making Good Cars People Want To Buy
Image: Nissan

Nissan has a bold and innovative new strategy that it’s just going to try out and see how it goes, Nissan gets fined, and workers get back to work. All that and more non-Nissan-related news in the Morning Shift for December 9th, 2019.


1st Gear: Nissan Needs To Come Out Of Its Funk

Nissan’s lineup has grown a bit stale, as of late. It’s not chock full of bad cars, necessarily, but it is full of cars that are just sort of there. At best, it’s got cars like the Altima and Rogue that are acceptable and competitive with the market segment, I guess, but nothing that’ll truly fill you with a desire to buy one. At worst, its sports-y offerings like the Z and the GT-R have been around for a decade or more without significant updates.

It’s stale.

Nissan knows this, and in the wake of former boss Carlos Ghosn’s arrest and departure, it wants to really ramp up the product development again, according new Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida in an interview with Automotive News:

Uchida’s attempt to pitch himself from the get-go as someone with more than a drop of gasoline in his veins stood in contrast to his CEO predecessors at Nissan, who rarely spoke about their personal connections with cars. It also underscored his doctrine that real growth comes from product.“Future growth will come through new models,” he said.Nissan has been falling behind in product development. It once was the pioneer in electric vehicles, for instance, with the release of the Leaf in 2010. It has become an also-ran as rivals pile into the segment.

Usually when we hear something like this, these days at least, it’s all about how the company plans to expand offerings in its home markets, or in China. Anywhere but the U.S., basically, because it’s a developed market already. But Nissan is saying that the U.S. will be a “pillar” of its strategy from here on out:

Part of the coming surge will be a clutch of EVs, including the Ariya, based on a new dedicated electric platform codeveloped with partner Renault. That should allow much bigger savings than the Leaf, which shared little with Renault’s counterpart, the Zoe EV.

But Nissan also will rejuvenate its core models, including the Rogue. A next-generation redesign is due as early as next year, and it will come on a new shared platform with Renault and Mitsubishi. A future version may even get Nissan’s e-Power hybrid drivetrain.


I personally can’t wait. A rejuvenated Nissan means more and better choices, and that’s good for everyone.

2nd Gear: Oh Right, The Ghosn Thing. Isn’t Nissan Responsible For That?

Before we move on from Nissan entirely, there’s been an unanswered question revolving around the company and its former chairman and CEO, Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn was arrested in Japan for a whole host of alleged financial misdeeds a while back, and while his own legal drama is still unfolding, the question of what the company itself bore responsibility for was still open. But now Reuters is reporting that a fine that Nissan itself must pay may be on the horizon, and it is, of course, paltry:

Japan’s markets watchdog will likely recommend soon that the financial regulator fine Nissan Motor Co Ltd about 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) over false reporting on its financial statement, public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.

Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in November last year over allegations of financial misconduct, including understating his salary by around 9.1 billion yen ($84.71 million) over a period of nearly a decade and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to the books of Nissan, Japan’s No. 2 automaker.


Nissan has seen its profit plunge of late, but still reported $540 million in quarterly earnings alone last quarter. It’ll be fine. That’s basically a rounding error. Minor, un-feelable bump in the road. Corporate crimes are barely treated as crimes, even in Japan.

3rd Gear: The UAW Disbands Region 5

The United Auto Workers is officially disbanding Region 5, an administrative subdivision consisting of 17 states, after it got caught up in a scandal of its own wherein, among other things, UAW officials spent union cash on $440 bottles of Cristal champagne.


Region 5 will now be split up between Regions 4 and 8, which the UAW is assuring everyone will be better at this whole not-embezzling thing, the Detroit News reports:

The move, announced Friday by President Rory Gamble, aims to break up the region whose St. Louis-based headquarters organized perennial conferences in Palm Springs, Calif., and Missouri. Events over a two-year period spent more than $1 million in member dues on poolside villas, booze, cigars, golf and steak dinners, federal authorities say — much of it fraudulently expensed to the UAW accounting department.

Details of the regional reorganization are not yet complete, in part because UAW regions typically are apportioned according to the density of members. But a source familiar with the situation told The Detroit News that Region 8, based outside of Nashville, Tennessee, likely would absorb the southern tier of Region 5, including Texas and stretching all the way to the Pacific southwest. Chicago-based Region 4, which stretches west to Montana, likely would absorb the northern tier of Region 5 states.

“Today’s action was taken in the interest of maintaining continuity in representing and servicing our members,” Gamble said in a statement. “Both Regions 4 and 8 have been prudently managed, cover wide geographic territories and have proven experience effectively representing UAW members. This will not impact any individual locals or state CAP councils or retiree councils.


Don’t worry, former Region 5 officials. We drink swill and it still makes our heads hurt exactly the same the next morning.

4th Gear: GM Workers Get Back To Work

For all the shady things that go on at the UAW, it still fights for its members and their fair pay. UAW workers building vehicles for General Motors went on strike for six weeks earlier this year, and in that time, GM lost out on the production of 300,000 vehicles. Now workers in its truck plants are working mandatory overtime to make up for the gap, the Detroit News says:

After a 40-day strike depleted stocks of Chevrolet and GMC pickups, General Motors Co. assembly plants are working nearly non-stop to restock dealer lots and prevent loyal customers from shopping for a Ford or Ram.

Mandatory Sunday overtime has been invoked through Dec. 21 at GM’s Flint Assembly plant, which builds heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras. That plant already was running three shifts, six days a week.


The voracious beast known as the American consumer wants its pickup trucks, and it shall have its pickup trucks.

5th Gear: Climate Change Will Erase Imaginary Money

If it did nothing else, the horrible Peloton ad from last week showed that share value and market capitalization are nothing but imaginary numbers, data points in what is merely a vast confidence game, as the company lost 15 percent of its value in the wake of everyone mocking it on Twitter.


But while we’re discussing the ephemeral miasma that makes up the cornerstone of our economic system, it’s worth noting that a bunch of analysts think climate change will erode massive sums in the next few years. Here’s Reuters:

Tighter government climate regulations by 2025 could wipe up to $2.3 trillion off the value of companies in industries ranging from fossil fuel producers to agriculture and car makers, an investor group warned in a report.


Most of the money lost will be in the form of coal company share value, but that industry was going to be killed by natural gas anyway.

Reverse: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, I Guess

A young engineer at General Motors (GM) named Thomas Midgley Jr. discovered that when he added a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) to gasoline, he eliminated the unpleasant noises (known as “knock” or “pinging”) that internal-combustion engines made when they ran. Midgley could scarcely have imagined the consequences of his discovery: For the next five plus decades, oil companies would saturate the gasoline they sold with lead, a deadly poison.


Neutral: What Does Nissan Need?

Imagine you run Nissan for a second. You know the whole lineup needs a refresh. What do you focus on first?

Deputy Editor, Jalopnik. 2002 Lexus IS300 Sportcross.


Margin Of Error

Neutral: What Does Nissan Need?

Focus should be put on the Pathfinder first. It’s super old and ugly, but that’s the most profitable category. There’s value attached to that name, and it can double as a good base for a true luxury offering for Infiniti if done right.

They need to do what Ford did with the new Explorer/Aviator.

That would be a good start, then move on to the Rogue, rinse and repeat.