( LatWp )Nissan Motor, struggling to overcome missed profit goals and a stagnant U.S. market share, said Friday that its high-profile top executive Carlos Ghosn would give up control of the company's American
Ghosn will keep the two chief executive titles he holds as head of Nissan and Renault. He gave up the U.S. job to focus on maintaining sales and profit of the overall alliance, Nissan spokeswoman
Frederique Le Greves said.
Under Ghosn, Nissan has enjoyed a strong run in the U.S. market since the late 1990s, when he stepped in to save the carmaker from bankruptcy. But lately the company has lost its momentum, analysts
Charlie Hughes, a former auto executive and co-author of ``Branding Iron: Branding Lessons from the Meltdown of the U.S. Auto Industry,'' said Nissan suffered for deciding to shift its U.S. headquarters from
southern California to Nashville when a number of talented executives refused to move.
Nissan, Japan's No. 3 automaker, also poorly timed its release of some new models, falling behind Toyota and Honda in the subcompact market. Nissan's Versa hit showrooms well after the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris soaked up much of the small car demand following the post-Katrina gas price spike in 2005.
Nissan's Le Greves said the automaker is hoping to get back on track with a new product offensive. In addition to the Versa, the carmaker has new versions of the family sedans Altima and Sentra. A sportier, two-door version of the Altima is on the way as well. At next month's New York International Auto Show, Nissan will show the G37 coupe, which replaces the two-door G35, and introduce a compact crossover concept called the EX.
Nissan has tried to differentiate itself in recent years by pushing horsepower in such models as the 350Z sports car, the Nissan Armada SUV and the FX45 SUV from Infiniti, the Nissan-owned luxury brand. The
fat sticker prices that go with large vehicles and big engines delivered rich profits for automakers in the late 1990s and early in this decade. But lately consumers have shown resistance to gas
``Nissan had this image with the introduction of the 350Z sports car of a more sportier image,'' said Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds.com. ``It may have resonated in consumers' minds as being not as gas efficient. That might have had an impact.''
In contrast, Toyota and Honda have held onto their green image with a focus on hybrids, which help generates showroom traffic even among shoppers who ultimately opt for different models. Toyota and Honda introduced hybrid models in the late 1990s. Nissan began offering its first hybrid model last year _ a hybrid version of the Altima which uses technology bought from Toyota.
Hughes said Toyota and Honda's hybrids have put pressure on Nissan and Ghosn. ``Ghosn stood up and said hybrids don't make sense,'' said Hughes. ``He wasn't the only one. But unfortunately he's being
compared to other Japanese auto companies. He doesn't sound well-informed while his two biggest competitors are getting great press because of hybrids.''