Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Add Nissan North America Inc. to the list of auto makers expecting their March sales to run ahead of year-ago, a top company official says.

“We’re going to have a very good month,” Brian Carolin, senior vice president-sales and marketing, tells Ward’s at a Nissan event on the eve of the auto show here. “It’s going to be a big year-on-year gain for Nissan.”

Including Infiniti sales, Nissan’s volume is sharply up in 2010, with a 22.8% gain through February, one of the bigger increases in the industry this year.

Nissan also saw its market share through February climb to 9.0% from 8.1% in like-2009.

Carolin downplays any positive effect Toyota Motor Corp.’s recall woes have had on Nissan’s sales success, particularly with its Altima midsize sedan and coupe. Typically, Japanese car buyers only shop other Japanese brands.

While sales of Toyota’s Camry midsize sedan are down sharply, Altima sales were up 15.6% through February.

“Altima has done well during the whole 12-month period,” Carolin says. “The Toyota problems only happened in the third week of January.”

He also says Toyota’s increased incentives in March have helped Nissan, noting the spiffs got people interested in buying a new car.

“Whenever you have a big player like Toyota coming into the market with very large discounts, it stimulates interest and you get a lot of shopping.”

Toyota reportedly says its sales rose 35% in March over year-ago. U.S. auto makers will announce their sales results on Thursday.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com