Auto sales in May were mixed, and Franklin-based Nissan North America wound up on the low side. Its slip in monthly sales comes amid a period of double-digit growth. Nissan’s numbers were down only about 1 percent compared to the prior year, but that’s in stark contrast to the sales gains in some recent months.
Consumers appear to be looking past compact sedans to something larger — behavior that's likely driven by this year's low fuel prices.
“Certainly, car sales are starting to see a slight decline, and the slight decline in car sales are going towards the crossover SUVs and trucks side of the business," Nissan vice president of U.S. sales and marketing Fred Diaz says.
But, he adds, Nissan is "very well-positioned" to capitalize on some of that growth. He points to the Rogue crossover, which is now built in Smyrna. Despite the down month overall, its sales popped up nearly 40 percent. It’s become one of Nissan’s best-sellers, second only to the Altima sedan, which is also made at the Rutherford County plant.
But sales of the all-electric Leaf dropped by nearly a third. The Tennessee-made vehicle's sales have cooled off after a long period of initial growth.
While Nissan ticked down, Volkswagen — whose sales have struggled — saw solid growth of 8 percent in May. However, Tennessee can’t take any credit: The Passat built in Chattanooga posted another down month.