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Nissan Bucks Upward Trend, Profits Plunge by More Than a Third

CEO Ghosn promises a product-led turnaround.

by on Feb.11, 2013

No excuses from Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

CEO Carlos Ghosn didn’t try to sugar coast Nissan Motor Co.’s latest financial results, admitting the more than one-third drop in the maker’s latest quarterly earnings “did not meet our expectations.” The news comes in sharp contrast to the results at Japanese competitors including both Toyota Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Co.

Nonetheless, the chief executive – who also serves as CEO of alliance partner Renault – contends Nissan is taking “swift” action to put things back on track and should have the products to help “reignite” its momentum.

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In dollar terms, Nissan reported a $670 million profit for the three months ending on December 31st, a 34.6% decline. Revenues, meanwhile, slipped 5.3% for the quarter, to $27.23 billion.  For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the second-largest Japanese maker has earned $2.91 billion based on an exchange rate of 81.1 yen to the U.S. dollar.

A lopsided exchange rate has been one of the factors hurting Nissan and the rest of the Japanese auto industry – though the dollar has gained strength in recent months, something that could help Nissan and its rivals in the quarters to come.  In fact, Nissan has left unchanged its earlier forecast that it will deliver a net of $4.02 billion for the full fiscal year, which ends on March 31st.

By comparison, Toyota reported a 23% jump in earnings between October and December, its net profit coming in at $1.09 billion.  And the maker has upped its forecast for the full fiscal year from $8.5 billion to $9.3 billion – which would quadruple the results of the prior year.

(For more on Toyota’s latest earnings and its profit forecast, Click Here.)

Nissan officials caution not to make an apples-to-oranges comparison, however. They note that Toyota was slow to recover from the effects of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami which sharply curtailed the industry giant’s production for much of the year that followed. Nissan, however, was able to recover much faster than its Japanese competitors, so its year-ago earnings were already on the mend.

Nonetheless, Nissan has had some challenges to face, starting with the strong yen’s impact on Japanese-made products – and some of those factors could limit its financial performance in the months to come.

In China, Japanese makers, in general, have been stung by the dispute over a chain of islands claimed by both Japan and the Chinese.  That has touched off a boycott of Japanese-made products, including automobiles.

The European economic slump is another serious problem that isn’t likely to turn around any time soon.

The U.S. market has proved tougher than expected, despite the launch of some critical new products such as the Altima – which so far has failed to achieve CEO Ghosn’s stated goal of toppling the long-dominant Toyota Camry as the best-selling midsize sedan.

All told, Nissan did see a 9.5% in U.S. sales last year, but the industry overall gained 13.5%.

Nissan officials are hoping to do even better as they continue a major product offensive in the U.S. and other markets this year.

“We have taken action to reignite our sales momentum and growth,” stressed Ghosn. “We have important vehicle launches. We anticipate further yen correction. We have made swift organizational changes to help stimulate our business performance. And we remain confident that we will meet our full-year outlook.”

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2 Responses to “Nissan Bucks Upward Trend, Profits Plunge by More Than a Third”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    Nissan has been struggling for years in the U.S. Even Ghosn can’t seem to work a “miracle” with their product line and it will take a miracle.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      I must admit I am surprised that Nissan didn’t do better last year, especially with Altima.

      Paul E.