Nissan presses on with portfolio overhaul, despite obstacles

At the same time Nissan has been juggling slumping sales, a corporate financial crisis, dealer dissatisfaction and the pandemic, it also has been orchestrating an ambitious portfolio reboot in the U.S. to deliver 10 new or updated models in 20 months.

Nissan is on the tail end of a bet-the-franchise move that will take its product portfolio from one of the industry’s oldest to among its freshest. Its key sedan and truck models — including the Sentra, Rogue, Pathfinder and Frontier — get redesigns.

Pulling off the reboot in the maw of a pandemic, while also navigating a sales strategy pivot, has been a planning and logistics challenge, said Michael Colleran, Nissan U.S. senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“It’s really a remarkable story of recovery, perseverance, dedication and resilience,” Colleran, 59, told Automotive News last week.

The coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the U.S. in early spring, just as Nissan rolled out its 2020 Sentra to dealerships, and production plans for the 2021 Rogue crossover — its bestselling model — were being finalized.

“Everything was kind of stopped,” Colleran said, referring to general economic activity last spring. “That posed some unusual problems for Nissan, because we were also in the midst of revitalizing the business.”

It was bad for the entire industry, but particularly bad for Nissan as it worked to restore its brand. Dealerships closed around the country. Nissan’s two U.S. vehicle assembly plants went dark for more than two months, and design and engineering teams were forced to collaborate on product development from the isolation of their living rooms and basements.

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