Positive outlook fails to drive Nissan’s sales

Nissan bucked the optimistic trend among Japanese carmakers yesterday, leaving its annual profit forecast unchanged as sluggish sales weighed on its bottom line.

The cheaper yen is improving the competitiveness of cars made by Nissan, Toyota, and Honda when exported to key markets such as the United States, and adding to pressure on their South Korean rivals.

But Nissan reported a 35 per cent year-on-year drop in third-quarter profits, citing weak demand in Europe, China and the United States. It left its earnings forecast for the year unchanged at ¥320 billion (£2.2bn).

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The group sold 4.94 million vehicles in 2012, up 5.8 per cent from 2011, but sales in China, its biggest market, fell 31.3 per cent in the final three months after anti-Japan protests in September in response to a political dispute between the countries.

Nissan is thought to be missing out on a US boom enjoyed by its peers as it struggles to sell older models such as the Rogue “crossover sports utility vehicle”. The firm is expected to launch a redesigned Rogue later this year.

Chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the company had “important vehicle launches” coming up and also anticipate further devaluation of the yen. He added: “We have made swift organisational changes to help stimulate our performance, and we remain confident that we will meet our full-year outlook.”

The Japanese currency has lost around 20 per cent of its value versus the dollar since October. Japan’s fifth-ranked car firm, Mazda, recently hiked its operating profit outlook for the year to March by 80 per cent.