Nissan is cutting prices on seven of its 18 models in the U.S., hoping its cars and trucks will show up in more Internet searches by shoppers.
The price cuts vary with the amount of equipment on each model and run from 2.7 percent, or $580, on the top-selling Altima midsize car to 10.7 percent, or $4,400, on the Armada big SUV. Other models getting price cuts include the Sentra compact car, Juke small crossover SUV, Murano midsize crossover, Rogue small crossover and the Maxima full-size car.
Jose Munoz, Nissan senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas, said the vehicles getting the price cuts account for 65 percent of Nissan's U.S. sales. The sticker prices, he said, were higher than some competitors for similar models, and that kept Nissan vehicles out of some Internet searches.
"In some of the customer searches we may not appear," Munoz said. "This is an indication that we certainly want to be on the shopping list and we want to be considered by as many customers as possible."
The company plans to reduce rebates and other discounts to offset some of the price cuts. The cuts come at a time when Nissan faces intense competition from U.S.-based automakers and its prime Japanese competitors, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
The price cuts are effective Friday for cars and trucks that aren't yet on dealer lots. However Nissan will also make allowances to trim prices of cars now in dealer inventories. The cuts will remain in effect indefinitely.
Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has set a goal of taking 10 percent of U.S. sales by 2016 or sooner, and executives are under pressure to sell more vehicles to hit the goal. In the first quarter, Nissan's sales were down 1.3 percent with an 8.6 percent share of the market, according to Autodata Corp.
Although Nissan denies it, industry analysts say the company can afford to cut prices because of efforts in Japan to weaken the yen against the dollar. That makes cars and parts made in Japan cheaper than goods made in the U.S. One analyst said it could be the start of a price war if other automakers follow.
Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit forecasting firm, said the weaker yen should help Nissan cut prices, as the company makes a bid to increase sales and market share amid intense competition.
"We could be looking at a price war," he said. "If the yen stays where it is at and competitive pressure does as well, we could be looking at a more widespread battle for buyers."
Nissan's Munoz denied that the yen has anything to do with the price cuts, saying that four of the seven affected models are made in North America. Only the Juke, Rogue and Murano are made in Japan, and their sales are small compared with the other models.
Nissan makes about 75 percent of its cars sold in the U.S. in North America, and that should rise to 89 percent by the end of next year when the company shifts production of the Rogue and Murano.
Nissan isn't the first automaker to cut prices this year. In January General Motors trimmed $300 to $770 off the sticker price of its slow-selling midsize Chevrolet Malibu.