Talk about bold. Within days of winning the US Open women’s tennis tournament in a highly publicized upset of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka already had been recruited as a new global brand ambassador by Nissan. The dazzling new athletic phenom will appear in global promotions and advertising, and Nissan will support her activities as a tennis player, including providing vehicles at her tour destinations.
Recruiting Osaka—the first Japanese player to win a women’s singles Grand Slam event—is the kind of highly visible stroke that Nissan has been executing these days, and Osaka herself recognized that.
“I was drawn to partner with Nissan because of its strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirt,” Osaka said. “The brand is always challenging expectations, and I look forward to bringing its vision for driving excitement to new audiences around the world.”
Indeed, surviving as one of the world’s largest automakers has taken boldness and vision for Nissan when pressure is mounting to transition from an era dominated by internal-combustion sedans to a new age in which electric, autonomous utility vehicles promise to reign. And placing bets on the growth of various geographic markets is dicier than ever.
Under CEO Carlos Ghosn, the alliance of Nissan and Renault has managed to remain highly competitive in the here-and-now as well as position the joint Japanese-French company for a future requiring unprecedented investments in new technologies whose paybacks may not be evident for several years.
Rogue, for instance, has helped Nissan compete successfully in a US market where consumers have shifted radically toward utility vehicles over the last few years. Once far from a star of the Nissan lineup, the compact Rogue SUV has become one of Nissan’s best-selling nameplates because it is a solid performer that is reasonably priced.
And now, for 2019, Rogue is making it easier for consumers to access Nissan’s semi-autonomous ProPilot Assist system of technology features, which—among other things—will brake the car to zero, then speed back up when traffic starts to move again. It also features lane-centering technology that steers the vehicle around curves.
Another segment where Nissan has shown boldness is in its recommitment to full-size sedans, which are under pressure as a category. The 2019 Altima, Nissan’s most important sedan, has gone on sale this fall with more athletic styling, new optional all-wheel drive and standard ProPilot Assist on many variants.
“Our goal with the all-new Altima,” said Joze Munoz, Nissan’s chief performance officer, in a press release, “is to re-energize the sedan segment in terms of design, driving feel and in making advanced technologies available and affordable for everyone.”
But nowhere has Nissan’s boldness been more evident than in its all-electric Leaf. Nissan launched the car as one of the original fully battery-powered models about a decade ago, and since then it has become the best-selling EV of all time. And for the 2018 version, Nissan took the big step of introducing a completely redesigned Leaf whose starting price also is lower than for the 2017 version.
Nissan has been a pioneer in the spread of EVs worldwide. And the lower-priced new Leaf can be expected to extend that legacy.