The Renault-Nissan Alliance very nearly overtook General Motors (GM) to become one of the three biggest carmakers globally by sales in 2016. Both Renault and Nissan saw substantial sales gains year on year, and Mitsubishi, which the Alliance rescued last year, boosted the total by almost a million.
In its 18th year, the Alliance came within touching distance of 10 million, selling 9.96 million vehicles globally. This was only 3891 cars and trucks short of GM’s total, and even only 350,000 units short of new worldwide leader Volkswagen Group. Nissan sold the lion’s share with 5.56 million units, up 2.5%, but Renault saw the biggest gains, up 13.3% to 3.12 million.
Chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn said: ‘The combination of Groupe Renault, Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors creates a new force in the global auto industry.’
However, Nissan’s Q3 operating profit declined 15% to ¥163.5 billion (€1.4 billion) year on year, due to a number of factors including higher marketing costs, a stronger yen, rising incentives and the sliding price of used cars in the US. Quarterly revenue fell 2.2% to ¥2.9 trillion (€24 billion), and net profit rose 3.5% to ¥131.7 billion (€1.1 billion).
Nissan’s domestic sales improved on strong demand for the latest versions of its new Note compact hatchback and Serena van models launched last year. It also saw strong sales in North America from high demand for its Rogue SUV. Sales in China also grew healthily, but Nissan warned sales would slow these as tax breaks are cut for small-engine cars.
Unlike Toyota and Honda, Nissan has left its full-year net profit forecast unchanged at ¥525.0 billion (€4.4 billion) and is still expecting to hit its operating profit of ¥710.0 billion (€5.9 billion). Nissan’s corporate vice president Joji Tagawa said that, unlike Honda and Toyota, Nissan did not revise its yen outlook downwards; Toyota and Honda boosted their profit targets when the yen fell sharply in November as Donald Trump won the US presidential election on the hopes of US stimulus and tax cuts.
Mitsubishi contributed a little under 10% of the total, selling 934,013 vehicles, but this was down 13% year on year as confidence in the brand in Japan fell, and demand weakened in Brazil, Russia and the Middle East. The Alliance counts the brand in its tally even though Nissan owns only 34% of the company. Ghosn took over as Nissan’s president in 1999, restoring the company to profitability and strengthening its alliance with Renault. Ghosn now expects to be able to achieve the same turnaround at Mitsubishi.
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