Special Coverage

Greater LA Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Sounding optimistic after a recent uptick in sales, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. CEO Carlos Ghosn says the Nissan GT-R sports coupe will be available in the U.S. beginning in June at a starting price of $69,850.

The GT-R will be offered through Nissan dealers that meet stringent certification standards, and a pre-order program will be available beginning in January, Ghosn says at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

But Ghosn spends most of his time talking about the all-new Murano, introduced here this week and going on sale in early January as an ’09 model.

The new cross/utility vehicle will continue to support Nissan’s growing sales in the U.S. market, Ghosn says. “Sales increases that have been driven by the company’s renewed product portfolio,” he adds.

Nissan’s U.S. sales through October are up 4.9% vs. like-2006, and October sales, alone, increased 9.8%, Ghosn says, adding Nissan also had the largest year-over-year gain of the top six U.S. manufacturers last month.

“(The) Altima was the fifth-best-selling car in the industry in October, with sales up more than 40%,” he says. “And (the) Versa was the leader in the competitive subcompact segment for the third consecutive month.

“Looking ahead, the U.S. auto industry will continue to face an environment of uncertainty and change,” Ghosn predicts. “Our job, our path to continued success, is to offer our customers innovative, high-value products that meet their needs and that embrace our shared passion for fun-to-drive vehicles.”

Despite his optimism about the GT-R, many observers are skeptical of how well the sports coupe – with such a hefty price tag – will fare in the U.S.

While the car has a very strong reputation in Japan and Europe, one analyst points out that in the U.S., young men are most familiar with it through video games. And that age group is unlikely to be able to afford the car.

Boomers, who actually have the income to buy such a vehicle, are far less familiar with the GT-R, he notes.

dwinter@wardsauto.com