In the world of car enthusiasts, opinions can be as varied as the models on the road.
Nissan, once hailed as a beacon of innovation and reliability, has relatively recently found itself at the center of criticism.
Once a byword for quality and durability (as well as interesting design and performance pedigree) Nissan seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat as far as Japanese automotive brands go.
If you go on an automotive discussion board like Reddit and ask ‘what car should I buy’ it’s rare you will see a Nissan recommended.
But why has the tide of public opinion turned against this once-revered brand, that used to compete with Toyota as the pinnacle of Japanese automotive engineering.
Here are five reasons why Nissan’s brand perception has been “challenged”, to say the least, in recent years.
Table of Contents
1. The Shift Away from Performance Heritage
Nissan, known for its legendary models like the Skyline GT-R, once epitomized the essence of performance and driving excitement.
However, recent years have seen a shift in focus towards more practical, cost-effective vehicles … perhaps the most egregious example of this being the Nissan Leaf which is definitely an excellent ‘commuter car’ but about as exciting as watching paint dry.
This pivot away from performance has left many enthusiasts feeling alienated, mourning the loss of what made Nissan unique. While not an issue for everyday vehicle purchasers, there can be no denying that a strong enthusiast base can help to drum up support and sales (which can fund other business activities).
Nissan did have a go recently with the new Z Car, but despite it being a decent attempt the latest in Nissan’s illustrious line of performance cars wasn’t particularly well-received compared to the competition (in part due to pricing and unreasonable dealer markups).
The GT-R was an innovative, instant smash hit in its day but is very much long in the tooth now, and is going the way of the dodo in most markets anyway.
Second hand buyers are blessed with many great performance Nissan choices (such as the legendary 350Z and subsequent 370Z) but compared to the likes of Toyota with its renewed push into performance motoring, Nissan seems a far cry from the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s.
Of course it could be worse … just look at Mitsubishi.
2. The Reliability Question
Historically, Nissan’s reputation for reliability was a major selling point. But recent models have faced scrutiny over quality and durability issues.
From CVT transmission problems (arguably the most common issue in modern Nissans) in models like the Altima and Rogue to concerns over the longevity of their newer engines, these reliability issues have been a significant factor in the growing disenchantment with the brand.
In fact, at the time of writing this article there was a probe recently opened into over 450,000 Nissan engines with potential concerns over premature engine failure (read more here).
In defence of Nissan – or at least in an interesting example of cause versus correlation, and a defence of the engineering side of the business – part of Nissan’s recent reliability concerns can perhaps be chalked up to the cars having a tendency to fall into the hands of those who aren’t the best at undertaking preventative maintenance.
Highly aggressive financing offers (at least in the United States) meant that just about anybody could walk into a Nissan dealership and drive away with something brand new. However, those without the means to properly maintain a car – who only qualified to buy the car owing to the open-to-all-comers-financing – may have exacerbated inherent reliability issues in some aspects.
That being said, the impact of various reliability issues cannot be underestimated when it comes to looking at the decline of Nissan’s brand perception in the market.
3. Design Controversies
Innovation in design is always a gamble, and Nissan has had its fair share of hits and misses.
However, some of their recent design choices, like the unconventional look of the Juke, the odd proportions of the Leaf, or the polarizing aesthetics of the newer Z models, have not resonated well with a segment of their audience. At the same time, vehicles like the X-Trail – which was well-received due
For a brand once celebrated for its sleek and appealing designs (or at least inoffensive styling) these choices have been a hard pill to swallow for many.
4. Competitive Market Dynamics
The automotive world is more competitive than ever, with manufacturers from Korea and other parts of the world upping their game and providing credible alternatives.
Brands like Hyundai and Kia are offering vehicles with better value propositions, more features, and increasingly, superior build quality (although these brands are not without reliability issues either).
In some markets, highly competitively priced Chinese vehicles are eating Nissan’s lunch from the bottom end of the market as well.
This intense competition has highlighted Nissan’s shortcomings, making it harder for the brand to stand out.
5. Brand Identity Crisis
One of Nissan’s most significant challenges has been maintaining a clear brand identity amidst these changes. The shift from a focus on performance and driver engagement to a more utilitarian approach has left many wondering what the Nissan brand stands for today. This identity crisis has diluted the brand’s appeal, especially among car enthusiasts.
Compare a brand like Subaru (which does admittedly face some criticism from enthusiasts owing to the ‘softening’ of its performance lineup and credentials) which has a strong brand identity with its focus on “go anywhere” practical vehicles with AWD and cutting-edge safety … by way of comparison, what does Nissan stand for? It’s hard to determine, isn’t it?
Conclusion – Why Is Nissan Hated By Many?
In summary, the decline in affection for Nissan among car lovers can be attributed to a combination of factors: a departure from its performance roots, reliability concerns, controversial designs, fierce competition, and a muddled brand identity.
While Nissan still has a loyal following and continues to produce popular models, it’s clear that the brand faces an uphill battle in winning back the hearts of those who once revered it.