Nissan offers some U.S. dealers cash to take inventory in 11th-hour wholesale push

With its fiscal year coming to a close next week, Nissan is paying its dealers cash to take vehicles from a backlog of unsold factory inventory.

Nissan retailers began receiving emails and calls last week from factory reps offering $500 to $2,000 for every vehicle the dealerships take.

Several of the eight retailers Automotive News interviewed across the U.S. have received cash offers. The retailers, who requested not to be identified, said the bonus money varies by model line and market region.

A Nissan spokesperson declined to comment.

Some retailers said Nissan’s targeted wholesale effort is anti-competitive and damages factory-dealer relations.

Alan Haig, president of the buy-sell firm Haig Partners, said offering some retailers a deal on cars and not others could violate franchise laws in many states.

Haig said the laws level the playing field and ensure larger dealers don’t get better deals than smaller ones.

One retailer who was aware of the effort but had not received an offer said Nissan could be engaging in “two-tier pricing” by not making the program available networkwide.

“The cash payment allows a dealer to effectively purchase the same product at a lower cost than another,” he said.

Retailers worry that Nissan could be picking winners and losers with this program.

“It can give a dealer a competitive advantage over the guy down the street who was not offered the same bonus or could not take the additional cars,” said another dealer who also had not received an offer.

Some dealers said they were frustrated that Nissan would spend money on last-minute wholesale programs instead of keeping vehicle prices competitive throughout the year.

“Nissan has repeatedly said it doesn’t have the budget to put more incentives on cars to help us retail them,” a dealer said.

But Nissan isn’t having much luck getting its overstocked dealers to bite on its eleventh-hour sales drive, the retailers said.

Some told Automotive News that Nissan had approached them to take vehicles but that they declined because the bonus money was inadequate and didn’t solve a more fundamental problem — a lull in consumer interest.

“It only moves the asset from Nissan’s balance sheet to the dealer’s balance sheet and makes the dealers pay more in flooring costs,” a retailer said.

One dealer with a days’ supply in the “high 90s” said Nissan offered about $30,000 to take 45 additional vehicles in March.

“Why would I take more cars and pay 7 percent in flooring?” he asked. “I’m going to chew through that extra incentive money in four or five months.”

Another retailer, with a nearly 100-day supply across multiple Nissan stores, said he didn’t take any of the 44 vehicles offered despite the extra cash.

The dealer said he was currently paying $130,000 in monthly floorplan interest.

“We’re not turning enough vehicles over the last couple of months to offset higher interest rates,” he said.

The retailer said he’s had his worst start to a year and blamed a lack of incentives and marketing support.

“We don’t have the 0 percent/36-month financing [on the Rogue] as Hyundai has on Tucson,” he said.

Nissan’s wholesale struggle reflects a retail challenge. Some dealers have cut back on ordering new vehicles as the brand’s days’ supply topped 100 at the end of February. According to Cox Automotive, Nissan had the highest inventory of any full-line automaker.

To compensate, Nissan has turned to more fleet sales in the past year and implemented a volume bonus program this month to help sell down as many as 24,000 previous model-year Rogue crossovers, its bestselling model. In the first quarter, Nissan also has trimmed 6 percent of its U.S. factory output, or about 10,200 vehicles.

Nissan executives have blamed the oversupply partly on shifting consumer demand as interest rates rose last year.

“At the beginning of [2023], the interest rates weren’t as high; customers were looking for vehicles [with] more equipment,” Judy Wheeler, Nissan Division’s U.S. sales boss, told Automotive News in January.

But as interest rates and monthly car payments rose, customers steered toward more affordable, less complex vehicles.

“Because of that, we probably got too high on [supply of] some vehicle lines,” Wheeler said.

But dealers say Nissan has historically struggled with oversupply because of its business strategy.

A Nissan regional dealer advisory board member said the automaker builds vehicles to its profit margin rather than customer demand.

The vehicles pile up, forcing Nissan to rely on fleet sales and discounting, he said, while product delays and resurgent competitors have exacerbated the supply problem.

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