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商业 - 汽车

死敌大伤元气,日产乘势而起

Doron Levin 2011年08月29日

日产曾经只是日本汽车业的配角,活在本田和丰田这两大巨头的阴影之下。然而现在,正当对手因故抛锚之际,日产汽车开始频频发力,乘势而起。

    今年,日本汽车产业接连遭到了自然和非自然灾害的重创。惨痛的地震和强势的日元使得本田(Honda)和丰田(Toyota)这样的大型公司损失惨重。但是也有例外,这就是日产(Nissan)。一直屈居老三的日产公司韧劲十足,抓住死敌失利的机会,逐步抢占了美国市场份额,并博得了市场的青睐。

    到目前为止,日产(NSANY)美国销售额较去年同期增长12.8%,然而本田(HMC)和丰田(TM)的销售业绩却纷纷下跌。日产创新的聆风(Leaf)电动车带来了良好的口碑,眼下,这家总部位于日本横滨的公司可谓春风得意。7月,这台前卫小车的销售量达到了4,806辆。这款车的税前售价为34,570美元,充电一次能行驶约100英里。此外,日产Altima这款可能稍逊风骚,但却是日产销售收入的生力军。这款中型轿车在销量上甚至击败了本田雅阁(Accord)、雪佛兰(Chevrolet, GM)迈瑞宝(Malibu)和福特(F)的Fusion。

    去年,当对手元气大伤之时,日产这家在日本前三甲中长期殿后的汽车制造商开始频频发力,奋起直追。自3月11日地震和海啸以来,对手的供应大受影响,而日产却设法保证了车辆的稳定供应。马萨诸塞州莱克星顿市咨询公司HIS旗下环球通视(Global Insight)的分析师瑞博卡•林德兰德说日产“在供应商的调动和生产恢复方面的步伐更快”。他说,“本田为谨慎起见,将一级供应商增至多家,但却收效甚微,因为双方都因原材料和组件短缺而苦不堪言”

    日产纳什维尔市美国总部主管通信事务的副总裁大卫•鲁特说,为了确保汽车的市场供应量,日产费煞费苦心。例如,由于地震造成了电脑芯片的短缺,日产毅然决定减少部分车型的高科技功能,例如取消导航系统,扩大汽车的生产数量,保证整车的供应量。因震后电力供应不足,日本易威奇工厂部分锅炉无法达到预定的生产温度,生产受阻,日产于是将美国坎顿和密西西比工厂生产的引擎零部件出口至易威奇工厂。

    鲁特还说,“日产的优势在于monozukuri(生产一词的日语——译注)”。他认为,最近几年韩国汽车制造商现代(Hyundai)这一亚洲品牌的迅速崛起吸引了对手的大部分注意力,这也使得日产有时间养精蓄锐。

    但是除了技术方面的问题,市场营销也一直是日产的软肋。尽管日产车质量优良,深受评论界赞誉,但市场销量一直平平。10年前,为拯救日产,雷诺汽车公司(Renault AG)购买了日产的大量股份,之后,卡洛斯•戈恩接手日产,出任首席执行官。自卡洛斯上任之后,人们对日产的认识逐步改观。上世纪90年代末,日产一度濒临破产,然而公司却置之死地而后生,日产汽车的销售也因为其颇有创意的广告而受益。

    本田和丰田的衰退给了日产崛起的机会。最近,权威杂志《消费报道》(Consumer Reports)将本田思域(Civic)请出了该杂志的推荐名单。此前,思域一直是这个榜单的常客。丰田还没有完全从突然加速事故和质量调查的阴影中走出来。该公司高层对此事的处理失当,必将成为管理学的反面教材(尽管目前有关丰田在技术方面存在严重问题的指控并没有得到证实,但其负面影响已让公司苦不堪言)。

    当然,本田和丰田不会就此一蹶不振,这一点日产心知肚明。这两家公司的财力雄厚,工程技术人才储备充裕。丰田即将发布新款凯美瑞(Camry),该车的老款并未给评论家留下深刻印象,毫无疑问,为保证其主导地位,新款必将有所改进。汽车杂志《人车志》(Car and Driver)主编埃迪•阿尔特门说,“丰田一度势不可挡,而日产的崛起则在于它愿意不断尝试。”话说黑马好当,始终一马当先就不是件容易的事了。

    Japan's auto industry has been battered by disasters natural and unnatural unlike this year. A tragic earthquake and a steroidal yen have wreaked havoc on the bottom lines of major firms Honda and Toyota. The exception? Nissan. The perennial third place finisher has proven resilient, gaining market share and garnering acclaim in the U.S. at the expense of its two most celebrated rivals.

    So far this year, Nissan's (NSANY) U.S. sales have jumped 12.8% percent ahead of last year, while Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) both declined. The Yokohama, Japan-based company has been basking in the spotlight of good publicity thanks to its innovative Leaf electric car. Through July, it has sold just 4,806 units of the avant-garde little model, which goes for about 100 miles on a charge and sells for $34,570 before tax credits. Less well-known -- and much more vital for Nissan's earnings -- is that its Altima mid-size sedan has been outselling Honda's Accord, Chevrolet's (GM) Malibu and Ford's (F) Fusion.

    Nissan, perennially bringing up the rear among Japan's top three, has made a series of deft moves over the last year that has propelled it forward as rivals stalled. Since the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, the company has managed to maintain its supply of vehicles -- unlike competitors. Nissan "got its assembly plants and suppliers up and running sooner," says Rebecca Lindland, an analyst for IHS/Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. "Honda had taken the precaution of using more than one first-tier supplier. But that didn't work out because often both sources were hit by the same shortage of materials or sub-assemblies."

    David Reuter, vice president of communications at Nissan's U.S. operations in Nashville, says that the automaker was forced to scramble to make sure its dealers had enough vehicles to sell. Computer chips, for example, were in short supply due to the quake. Nissan therefore decided to build more units with fewer high-tech features, such as navigation, in order to ensure that as many cars as possible were completed. The automaker also exported engine components from its U.S. plant in Canton, Mississippi to its Iwaki plant in Japan when power shortages prevented some ovens from reaching critical heat, thereby disrupting production.

    "Nissan's advantage is monozukuri," Reuter said, a Japanese word that means manufacturing. He speculates that Nissan may have flown under the radar of its main competitors when they concentrated on the threat posed by South Korean producer Hyundai, the hottest ascendant Asian brand of the past few years.

    But Nissan's problems haven't all been technical. Marketing has been a longtime weakness. The automaker's vehicles, given their high reliability and top reviews by critics, have undersold in the market. Perceptions have changed steadily during the tenure of Carlos Ghosn, who took over as chief executive officer more than a decade ago when Renault AG bought a major stake in the automaker as part of a rescue effort. Nissan, which had been close to bankruptcy in the late 1990s, gained buzz as a turnaround story, its vehicles benefitting from more creative advertising.

    Nissan's relative strength has come at the expense of Honda and Toyota. Recently, the influential magazine Consumer Reports removed Honda's Civic from its recommended list, where it had long been a mainstay. And Toyota has yet to recover from investigations into a sudden-acceleration and quality scandal, which was so mishandled by executives it is destined to become fodder for management text books. (Allegations of serious technical flaws have not proven credible, but the fallout has nevertheless hobbled the company.)

    Of course, Nissan can't count on Honda and Toyota floundering forever. Both are financially strong with deep reserves of engineering talent. Toyota is about to release a new Camry, which has underwhelmed early reviewers and no doubt will undergo revision to maintain dominance. "Toyota was running on momentum," says Eddie Alterman, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver. "Nissan is gaining because it's been willing to take some chances." In other words, being the underdog was easy. Maintaining the lead -- that's the hard part.

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