By 2002 Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. plans to deliver custom-ordered vehicles to consumers in Japan and Europe within 14 days. It expects to deliver vehicles faster to North American consumers as well, but is less aggressive here because 90% of U.S. consumers currently buy vehicles off dealer lots.

In Japan the situation is almost the reverse: 50% to 60% of the vehicles leaving the factory already are spoken for, and another 30% to 40% have potential buyers waiting. In Europe about 70% of vehicles are bought off dealer lots, with 30% custom-ordered.

The move should put Nissan at the leading edge of the order-to-delivery push, along with French automaker Renault SA, which manufacturing experts say is one of the most aggressive in this area. Renault owns 36.8% of Nissan, but Tadao Takahashi, a Nissan senior vice president in charge of manufacturing, says it is "coincidental" that both automakers have 14-day delivery goals.

The move could save millions in inventory carrying costs. Nissan currently carries about 0.9 months worth of inventory on its books - down from 1.3 months - and it hopes to hit 0.7 months by 2002 with its streamlined order-to-delivery plan. Currently Nissan carries vehicles in inventory for about 90 days, in the U.S.