YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida, fighting a forecast for the company's biggest-ever operating loss, says he won't be able to restore profitability without reigniting growth in the key U.S. market.
Uchida's comeback strategy hinges on improved dealer relations, a flood of better product and smooth launches for those upcoming vehicles, all part of the Nissan Next updated business plan.
"If we cannot make sure that the U.S. operations recover, we will not be able to pursue what we have set out in Nissan Next," Uchida told Automotive News last week.
"That's where we really need to rectify ourselves in terms of operations and reestablish our brand image," he said. "We want to respect what the dealer is doing and grow together."
Turning Nissan around in the U.S. won't be easy, as dealers complain about seesawing incentives, more stringent factory audits and plunging sales amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Uchida's battle could get a boost from a more upbeat appraisal of Nissan Motor Co.'s trajectory. Global demand is weathering the pandemic better than expected, he said. And, he added, the Japanese carmaker's outlook for massive red ink may be a bit overblown.
When Uchida unveiled the Nissan Next plan in May, the company was predicting a 21 percent tumble in global industry volume this year amid the slowdown.
Then in July, the company forecast a ¥470 billion ($4.48 billion) operating loss for the current fiscal year ending March 31.
"If you look at the past three months, I think the number is much better," Uchida said about global demand.
Uchida declined to offer new targets, cautioning that there is still a lot of market uncertainty because of the possibility of a winter wave of fresh COVID-19 outbreaks. But analysts will be watching for some improved forecasts when Nissan announces quarterly earnings this month.