Skip to main content

Nissan gains most in 2010 U.S. sales

Among the big-three Japan-based auto companies in the United States, Nissan was the biggest winner by far in 2010. Sure, both Honda and Toyota sold more vehicles than Nissan. So both remain larger retailers. But Nissan grew at a much faster pace in 2010. In fact, while Honda and, especially, Toyota struggled to keep up with the recovering pace of U.S. auto sales, and while both lost market share, Nissan performed better than the market at large, and gained share.

Nissan North America closed 2010 at a blistering pace. The company's vehicle sales for the month of December 2010 ran 27.7 percent higher than they had 12 months earlier, during December 2009. The strong finish boosted Nissan's overall, 12-month growth rate to 18.0 percent for 2010 over 2009.

In terms of percentage growth, Nissan's 12-month sales increase made it one of the top performing companies in America. It's 2010, 12-month percentage growth easily outpaced General Motors' market-lagging increase of 7.2 percent. Nissan also beat its major Japan-based rivals, American Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., by large margins.

In fact, of the seven primary vehicle retailers in America – companies selling more than 500,000 units annually – Nissan enjoyed the third fastest rate of growth in 2010. Hyundai Motor America beat it handily, with 12-month growth of 23.7 percent. Ford Motor Company, with a 19.5 percent growth rate, edged out Nissan's 18 percent gain.

Still, Nissan earned bragging rights.

“We finished the year strong, thanks to high demand for bread-and-butter models like Altima, Versa, Sentra and Rogue,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of the Nissan division, in a boiler-plate statement released by the company with its sales figures. “We’re continuing Nissan’s growth, with double-digit gains in 2010 for the majority of our lineup.”

Nissan's solid gains look especially impressive when compared to its chief Japanese rivals, Honda and Toyota. Honda sold a total of 1,230,480 vehicles in the United States in 2010. Although that was 6.9 percent more than in 2009, the performance still lagged the overall U.S. vehicle market, which grew by 11.1 percent for the year.

Thus Honda lost market share. At the close of 2009, its total share of the U.S. light vehicle market stood at 11.0 percent. But the company closed 2010 with 10.6 percent.

Toyota is still the largest retailer of the three, selling 1,763,595 vehicles in 2010. But its market-share position slid alarmingly in the 12-month span. From a 2009 full-year U.S. market share of 17.0 percent, the company fell to 15.2 percent – a precipitous loss of nearly two full points in one year.

By contrast, Nissan gained market share in 2010. It closed 2009 with 7.4 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales. At the end of 2010, Nissan accounted for 7.8 percent of the market. Thus Nissan gained the share that Honda lost.

Even better for Nissan, its sales gains were well balanced. The company saw 14.8 percent growth in passenger-car sales, and a 24.4 percent gain in truck sales (which includes SUVs and crossovers, in addition to pickups). Honda and Toyota also saw decent increases in truck sales. But a decline in their passenger-car placements in 2010 pulled down the total sales performance for both companies.

By the numbers, Nissan North America sold 908,570 vehicles in 2010, compared to 770,103 the prior year. The Infiniti luxury-car division accounted for 103,411 of those 2010 sales. Overall, Infiniti sales grew 27.5 percent in 2010, from their 2009 total of 81,089 units.

Among models wearing the Nissan brand badge, the Nissan Altima was the top seller by far. The model closed 2010 registering 229,263 in total sales, a 12.6 percent gain from the prior year. Next in line came the Nissan Versa (99,705 units, up 20.3 percent), the Nissan Sentra (94,065 units, up 13.7 percent), and the Nissan Maxima (60,569 units, up 13.5 percent).

Nissan's top-selling model in the truck category, the Rogue compact crossover, tallied 91,515 sales in 2010, a 28.9 percent gain over 2009. The Nissan Frontier medium-sized pickup was the biggest percentage gainer on the truck side, seeing 42.3 percent growth to 40,427 annual sales.

At the Infiniti division, The G Sedan led the pack. Its 41,653 sales tally represented a 28.7 percent increase from the preceding year. Sales of the sport-oriented G Coupe increased more narrowly, growing 11.3 percent in 2010 to reach 16,490 total units.

The full-size, traditionally designed Infiniti QX56 was the brand's top selling SUV. Its 2010 sales level of 11,918 units – 85.1 percent more than in 2009 – accounted for better than a third of Infiniti's total SUV/crossover volume of 30,659 vehicles.