NEW YORK – Having escaped the weather-related downturn that has plagued most car brands in the U.S. this year, Nissan has the portfolio to keep momentum going for the rest of 2014, predicts Pierre Loing, vice president-product strategy and planning Americas.

The brand’s sales are nearly 12% ahead of 2013’s pace through the first two months, while Honda and Toyota are running closer to last year's rate. Loing says catching Honda for the No.2 spot among foreign marques is within reach at the present pace.

Nissan now trails stronger competitors only in the compact-car and big-truck segments, Loing says, promising the automaker will remedy that deficiency and leap ahead in volume.

That will be a tall order for the brand in the fullsize-pickup sector, where its Titan model now is selling a mere 15,000 units annually.

“We need to do 100,000-200,000 (units) annually in that segment,” Loing says, pointing to Toyota, which he says has hit the right formula with the Tundra, now averaging about 7,500 deliveries per month in the U.S.

A revamped Titan now under development is expected to hit the market in 2015 with an optional Cummins diesel engine designed to make the pickup more competitive with volume leaders Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado. The Tundra also will get a Cummins diesel.

“Our target is to be among the best (in the segment) in fuel economy, if not the leader,” Loing says.

The Sentra also will need to do much better against the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, he notes. Those models outsell the Nisan compact more than 2-to-1.

“Our product deserves to close that gap,” Loing says.

Introduction of new electric vehicles from BMW and Mercedes are expected to boost Leaf demand, he says, because it will raise the profile of EVs in the market. Another EV is coming from the brand, Loing says, but declines to elaborate.

Nissan’s Cube model also has been a slow seller, and Loing will not say whether the boxy small car will remain in the lineup beyond the current generation, introduced five years ago, though he admits there is no vehicle architecture in the automaker’s portfolio that would suit a next-generation model.

Imported from Japan, the Cube’s profitability has been hurt by unfavorable yen-dollar exchange rates.

“We haven't been able to make a (viable) business case for the (next-generation Cube),” he says.