Nissan Nudges Past Honda

LOS ANGELES Nissan North America slipped past American Honda Motors in unit sales in January, 67, 871 to 67,840, according to sales figures compiled by Car Concepts.

According to a source at Nissan’s lead agency, Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day, it is the first time Nissan has outsold Honda since March 1997. “And that [1997] level was reached via heavy levels of cash back and fleet sales,” the source said.

Honda’s luxury division, Acura, however, continued to outperform Nissan’s Infiniti brand, posting sales of 13,664 to Infiniti’s 8,713.

A study by Compete Inc., Boston, showed that Nissan’s sales were strong despite losing a share of market interest in 2004, though the report shows stabilization at the end of the year. “Nissan’s lower market-wide interest has been offset by better conversion of shoppers to buyers.”

“While they’re intriguing, you can’t put a lot of weight behind month-to-month figures,” said Todd Turner, principal analyst at Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif. “One could have a good or bad month for various reasons. But the longer trend, in year-to-year sales, you are seeing Nissan gaining ground on Honda and it’s conceivable that Nissan will pass Honda this or next year.”

Torrance, Calif.-based Honda spent $515 million on advertising through November 2004, while Nissan in Gardena, Calif., spent $800 million over the same period, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.