Nissan closes gap with Honda in U.S. thanks to stylish designs, discounts

Fri Aug 8, 2014 1:25am EDT
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By Bernie Woodall, Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) - For more than 25 years, the contest among Japanese car makers in North America has been a two-horse race, led by Toyota with Honda in second place and Nissan in the rear view mirror -trailing far behind. Not anymore.

    Nissan (7201.T: Quote), thanks to the launch of models that are getting high marks for styling, its wider range of vehicles and aggressive discounting, is catching up with Honda. In the next couple of years it could easily pass its rival in U.S. car sales for the first time since 1987.

    It isn’t hiding its ambitions. "I'm sure that we will overtake Honda,” said Jose Munoz, the chairman of Nissan North America. ”How long is it going to take us? Time will tell, but it's going to happen."

    While he says the company isn’t obsessed with leapfrogging Honda, Munoz is targeting a 10 percent share of the U.S. market by 2016.

    Its share in the first seven months of this year was 8.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent in 2009. Honda’s share, meanwhile, has slipped to 9.1 percent, the lowest since 2006, from a peak of 11 percent in 2009. Toyota (7203.T: Quote) currently has about 15 percent of the market.

    Honda (7267.T: Quote) had been the trend setter. The first Japanese company to build cars in the U.S., it built its sales and manufacturing footprint so rapidly across the United States that Honda executives had a term for it - "crazy speed." the company gained a reputation for high quality, and went out to consumers with slogans like “We Make it Simple” and “Honda: The Power of Dreams.”

"DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS"   Continued...

A pedestrian walks past Nissan Motor cars at the company's dealership in Tokyo July 28, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai