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Three Nissan newcomers sputter at launch
CEO Ghosn focuses on U.S. business to rev up key models
By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

In a sign of just how tough the U.S. auto market has become, even Japan’s thriving Nissan Motor Co. is struggling to build sales momentum for three key vehicles rolling off the line at its new $1.5 billion plant in Mississippi.

The automaker’s full-size Titan pickup is off to a tepid start, with U.S. truck buyers largely sticking with American brands. That follows disappointing launches of the redesigned Quest minivan and all-new Armada full-size SUV.

U.S. sales of the Titan, launched in late January with a $22,400 starting price tag, totalled just under 5,300 vehicles last month — substantially below the rate needed to achieve the company’s 100,000 annual sales goal.

“It’s going to take a while for a Japanese contender to catch on,” said Hans Christiansen, general manager of Billion Nissan, a Sioux Falls, S.D., dealership. In the pickup segment, “there’s some loyalty to the Big Three.”

Analysts say it is too early to predict the Titan’s sales performance, and Nissan officials say sales are picking up.

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