Nissan beats 2Q expectations with $1.3b profit

Nissan reports net income of $1.3 billion for first quarter of FY2015

Results for three months to June 30, 2015 (TSE report basis – China JV equity basis)*
Acct – Q1 – Y-O-Y
Net revenue – ¥2.90 trillion ($23.9 billion/€21.6 billion) – +17.6%
Operating profit – ¥193.7 billion ($1.6 billion/€1.4 billion) – +58.0%
Ordinary profit – ¥215.9 billion ($1.8 billion/€1.6 billion) – +45.2%
Net income** – ¥152.8 billion ($1.3 billion/€1.1 billion) – +36.3%
Based on average foreign exchange rates of JPY 121.4/USD and JPY 134.2/EUR

YOKOHAMA, Japan , Jul. 29, 2015 – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. today announced fiscal year first quarter financial results for the three months ending June 30, 2015.

The company reported net revenue of $23.9 billion (2.90 trillion yen), an increase of 17.6% versus 2.47 trillion yen a year ago. Operating profit was $1.6 billion (193.7 billion yen), up from 122.6 billion yen, a 58.0% increase. Net income was $1.3 billion (152.8 billion yen), an increase of 36.3% versus 112.1 billion yen in the prior year.

Nissan unit sales increased 4.4% in a market that increased 1.5%. Market share rose to 5.9%, up from 5.7% the previous year. The company sold 1,294,000 vehicles during the period.

“Nissan delivered solid financial results in the first three months of the fiscal year due primarily to strong demand for our core products in North America and Europe,” said Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer. “Given our on-going product offensive, the benefits of our Alliance strategy and continued cost-discipline, Nissan is on track to deliver its full-year financial guidance.”

During the period, Nissan launched the all-new Maxima in the U.S. and expanded introduction of the NP300 Frontier to Latin America and the Caribbean. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Murano a “Top Safety Pick Plus” vehicle safety rating, and the Sentra was named top Compact Car in the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS).

Infiniti improved to the fifth position in the J.D. Power IQS, securing recognition as the largest rank improvement of any brand. All Infiniti models performed above average in their respective segments, and the QX70 and QX80 were awarded top honors in their segments.

Nissan continued to benefit from strong sales of models from the Common Module Family developed within the Renault-Nissan Alliance, the Qashqai, Rogue and X-Trail. Nissan ended the period as best-selling Asian brand in Europe.

In the first quarter Nissan maintained its zero-emissions leadership. Total sales since launch of the all-electric LEAF have passed 180,000 units, and the company continued to expand its presence in electric commercial vehicles with the e-NV200.

On a management pro forma basis, which includes the proportional consolidation of results from Nissan’s joint venture operation in China, fiscal year first quarter net revenue increased to 3.12 trillion yen, up 16.0% year-on-year. Operating profit was up 41.0% versus the same period last year, to 219.7 billion yen, resulting in a 7.0% operating profit margin.

FY2015 Outlook
Nissan reaffirmed its global sales forecast for fiscal 2015. With a number of new models in the pipeline, including the Titan pick-up truck in the U.S. and the Lannia sedan in China, the company expects to sell 5.55 million units this fiscal year, up 4.4% and equivalent to global market share of 6.5%.

Nissan also maintained its financial forecasts first issued to the Tokyo Stock Exchange in May 2015. Calculated under the equity accounting method for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016, the forecasts showed:

Nissan FY15 Outlook – TSE report basis – China JV equity basis1
Net revenue – ¥12.10 trillion ($105.2 billion/€93.1 billion)
Operating profit – ¥675.0 billion ($5.9 billion/€5.2 billion)
Ordinary profit – ¥765.0 billion ($6.7 billion/€5.9 billion)
Net Income2 – ¥485.0 billion ($4.2 billion/€3.7 billion)
Calculated on exchange rate of JPY 115/USD and JPY 130/EUR

Nissan continued to project a full year dividend of 42 yen per share, a 27% increase from the prior year.

* Since the beginning of fiscal year 2013, Nissan has reported figures calculated under the equity method accounting for its joint venture with Dongfeng in China. Although net income reporting remains unchanged under this accounting method, the equity-accounting income statements no longer include Dongfeng-Nissan’s results in revenues and operating profit.

** Net income attributable to owners of the parent

About Nissan Motor Co.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Japan’s second-largest automotive company, is headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, and is part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Operating with more than 244,500 employees globally, Nissan sold almost 5.32 million vehicles and generated revenue of 11.38 trillion yen (USD 103.6 billion) in fiscal 2014. Nissan delivers a comprehensive range of more than 60 models under the Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun brands. Nissan leads the world in zero-emission mobility, dominated by sales of the LEAF, the first mass-market, pure-electric vehicle. It is the best-selling EV in history.

Nissan GT Academy: Living the dream

When I first met Nicolas Hammann, he was beaming, as though he still could hardly believe this was his life now. He’s a young guy, almost 22 years old. He grew up in Elkhart Lake, WI, doing some karting and road racing when he could. Just last year, he was at UNC Charlotte working toward a degree in mechanical engineering as a way to stay around cars in the future. Then he qualified for GT Academy. Jump ahead to January 2015, and Nic is in his first pro race, the 24 Hours of Dubai, representing Nissan behind the wheel of a GT-R GT3. And now he’s here at the 2015 GT Academy Finals in Nashville, TN, acting as a sort of ambassador from the other side of the challenge – an example of what each of these guys hopes to achieve. After this, he’s off to race at Lime Rock in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. After that, back to his home turf at Road America. Nicolas Hammann’s dream of becoming a pro racer has come true.

The GT Academy National Finals are made up of four parts, equally weighted. Within each program, though, there is room for interpretation – a gray area where those in charge can make judgment calls about character and whatnot. On the first day, the competitors take part in a Gran Turismo 6 tournament, as well as a PR test. Day two is made up of a grueling physical challenge and a driving test behind the wheel of an actual car.

The virtual racing takes place in a single room with multiple “sleds” — console setups with a built-in screen, Thrustmaster T500 force feedback steering wheel, and a pedal set. It is particularly balmy in Nashville during the first day of Finals, and all of the equipment — including a setup to livestream the competition on Twitch TV — makes the room uncomfortably hot. In this first part of the competition, drivers score points based on their finishing positions over a series of four rounds per group. Scrutineers look on to make sure everyone is playing above board.

Between rounds, the individual competitors go before a panel of Nissan reps for the PR test, and they are asked a series of predetermined questions (with room for improvisation, of course). While the answers themselves provide some useful information about the competitor, it’s the way they compose themselves that’s really under inspection during this segment. After all, whoever goes on to race will be representing Nissan, Sony, and the country on a global stage. The longer a competitor is in the room the better, I’m told by the Nissan folks. It means the interviewee spent more time charming the panel.

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Day two of the finals takes place at the Nashville Superspeedway. After a brief pep talk, it’s time for the physical challenge. It’s made up of three parts: push-ups, planking, and what they call the “bleep test” (others may know it as the PACER test) — all in Nashville’s thick the summer heat. The push-ups cover upper body strength, planking for the core, bleep test for cardio, but all three tests measure endurance. Each exercise lasts until the last person drops out. The challenges, of course, also showcase less concrete but equally important qualities like determination and attitude.

During the physical challenge, Hammann, last year’s winner, runs alongside both groups performing the bleep test. He doesn’t stop until the last competitor drops out. Immediately afterward, Nic gathers up the cones, still trotting. “You made that look easy,” I tell him. He shrugs, still smiling. “I hope so. I train for a living.”

While the virtual competition is what got them here, getting behind the wheel of an actual, metal and rubber Nissan 370Z Nismo is a totally different experience. The judges are looking for specific things over the two consecutive laps each finalist drives. Avoiding cones, of course, is important, though if a driver knocks over a cone “beautifully” with the rear of the car, that might not add seconds to their time. Judges are also looking at technique and how well the driver takes instruction from the coach in the right seat. The ability to listen and adapt is highly valued, though lap time is the most important part of the test.

After taking their two laps apiece, the drivers wait for the other competitors to finish. They’re told they could get the results before they even leave the facility. The pressure, though, has subsided as the day goes on, and most of the drivers appear to be relaxed as they wait. Perhaps they’re just exhausted.

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The Whole Point

Hammann has been a Gran Turismo fan for years, and fondly recalls playing Gran Turismo 2 for the original PlayStation. To go from fandom to representing the franchise is “really cool.” He grew up karting with his dad at Road America, and doing a little bit of club racing here and there. “I always loved racing but couldn’t afford to do it at a professional level,” he says, which led him into mechanical engineering, where he could see himself someday working around the sport he loves. Around the same time, he heard about the GT Academy. He tried his hand at it, but didn’t qualify. At school, he had more time to practice racing online and honing his skills at Gran Turismo. His second year, he finished 50th. The next year, Hammann’s parents gifted him a Logitech G27 steering wheel, which he thinks helped his game a lot. He made it into the National Finals in New York, and advanced to the next phase: Race Camp at Silverstone.

Hammann moved into his place at collge the Friday before he left for Silverstone. That weekend, he told his parents, “I’ve got to win this competition, because I don’t want to go back to school.” He just wanted to race. He got his wish, and since his win at Silverstone, he says he’s been “living the dream.”

And in that statement is exactly what Nissan, Sony, and Polyphony Digital are offering to players: a chance to live their dreams. It’s an alternative route into pro racing where people with raw talent and passion – who lack the huge sums of money it takes to launch a racing career – get a shot to prove themselves.

Bryan Heitkotter, the third winner of GT Academy (in 2011), has a similar story. “I’ve always loved cars. I’ve always wanted to race … since I was very little, and all I could afford to do when I was an adult was autocross and maybe the occasional track day.” Bryan had been laid off from his job delivering parts for a car dealership before he entered the GT Academy at age 30. Now, Bryan is currently in third place in the GTA class championship of the Pirelli World Challenge.

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Training For A Living

Just as consistency is essential to success in racing, it also appears to be a recurring theme when it comes to the GT Academy. Some of the competitors have qualified in previous years, and either didn’t move on to Silverstone or, in the case of one driver, an untimely injury kept him from attending. The fact that out of some 30,000 participants, the same guys repeatedly end up in the top 20 speaks to their steadiness. Other things proved to be consistent, too. Everyone I talked to, previous winners and hopefuls alike, are passionate about cars. And though every contestant I questioned is fanatical about Gran Turismo, none of them are gamers in the traditional sense. Racing simulators seem to be where their video game fandom begins and ends.

While consistency is clearly a large part of what gets people to the GT Academy Finals, to move on, competitors need to possess another vital quality: adaptability. If one doesn’t have a lot of racing experience, the shift from virtual to real driving requires quick readjustments.

If you’re Hammann, with some experience in road racing, tackling an autocross course for the first time can seem a little foreign. “Some of the same stuff applied, so I just tried to be calm and get through it the best I could.” But, he says, a lack of experience is something that these new drivers have in their favor. With less exposure to racing, success depends on taking well to instruction. If a coach tells one of these guys how to do something, or do something better, as Hammann says, “You don’t know any better, so you listen.”

There are ways to give yourself a better shot at winning once you make it to the GT Academy Finals. After Heitkotter qualified, he joined a gym for the first time in his life. He went to autocross school to hone his skills, got someone to lend him a Nissan 350Z to get a feel for what he’d be driving, rented a kart for a day, and thoroughly planned his mental strategy for possible situations he’d encounter throughout the event. “I put everything I had into this,” says Bryan.

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Hammann played a lot of Gran Turismo 6, racing a couple hundred miles every day, more on weekends. He was surprised to see that he had logged something like 3,500 miles at his favorite track in the game, Spa-Francorchamps. “It was the one time in my life that my parents said, ‘Get downstairs and keep playing video games.'” After being notified that he was going on to Race Camp at Silverstone, he began a training regimen of running every day, lifting weights, and putting himself in as many different types of driving and racing scenarios as he could to help him learn how to adapt quickly.

The training doesn’t stop after graduating from the finals, winning at Silverstone or even after a successful pro race. He lifts weights at least three times per week, does a shorter run on the days he lifts, and longer runs or bike rides as well as some core workouts on the days he doesn’t. Ahead of a race, Hammann still uses Gran Turismo to learn the tracks and to mentally prepare in order to maintain focus for long periods of time.

Heitkotter also sees the game as a valuable training tool. “It works well because Gran Turismo is, first of all, fairly realistic. If you use it in the right way, it can teach you an awful lot, more than most people would think.” Concentration, Bryan says, is one of those things you can learn. “It will develop your ability to stay focused on what you need to do and keep distractions to a minimum.” Finding your zone, and staying in it. That’s how it has helped Bryan, anyway.

This year’s winners also saw the value in preparation. Ryan Lynch came short of the top 20 spots in the online contests leading up the finals, but he was called up as an alternate. Despite the uncertainty of even making it to Nashville, he rented a Nissan 370Z to get a feel for the car, and rented a Mazda Miata for an autocross school. It paid off, as Ryan is one of the six competitors headed to Silverstone for Race Camp.

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Definitely Not The Stupidest Idea Ever

What is it about Gran Turismo that translates so well to the real world? Surely, Call of Duty leaderboards don’t reflect a player’s ability carry out real covert combat missions, a successful season of Madden doesn’t prepare you for NFL training camp, and no matter how “level 40″ your dark elf is, summoning skeletons in real life is damn near impossible. Yet, somehow, this formula playing out in Nashville, and around the world, works. GT Academy has proven itself as a viable route to pro racing over and over again. But how? Why Gran Turismo? As Hammann points out, the real-world training the drivers get from talented, experienced instructors goes a long way toward making new racers successful.

“In Gran Turismo, most people will have a steering wheel and pedals, and the steering wheel has force feedback, so you can feel what the front tires are doing. And that translates directly to a car.”

Heitkotter, though, had the most satisfying answer to the question I’d been asking everyone. “I think what it is is muscle memory,” he says. “In Gran Turismo, most people will have a steering wheel and pedals, and the steering wheel has force feedback, so you can feel what the front tires are doing. And that translates directly to a car.” When racing in your living room, you’re using the same type of interface that you’d be using in a real vehicle, which is something most other games simply can’t offer. It helps develop the same hand-eye coordination that you need when driving a car at the limit.

So what do other racers think of these gamers, who are good at Gran Turismo, then get put behind the wheel of a Nissan racecar and begin winning races? To Bryan, it doesn’t really matter. “I think GT Academy has already proven itself.” Heitkotter points to the winners who came before him, particularly Lucas Ordoñez. “He proved that the concept is legitimate.”

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Now What?

The winners from this year’s GT Academy National Finals — Armen Agakhan, Max King, JT Lauro, Ryan Lynch, Vladimir Skirda, and Tyler Utley — are headed to Race Camp at Silverstone. There they’ll compete against each other, as well as competitors from Mexico, Turkey, North Africa, and Australia, for the chance to become Nissan’s next pro racer. You can follow the competition, which goes from August 6 through August 12, at Nissan’s dedicated GT Academy Show website.

For these competitors and anyone talented enough to make it into the GT Academy in the future, the past winners offer their own sage advice. “Stay focused at all times, and execute to the best of your ability,” says Heitkotter. “You only get one shot at most things, and this is one of those things.”

Nicolas Hammann gives others the same advice he gives himself: “Have fun and do your best,” and also, “Don’t leave anything on the table.”

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Acura replaces chief Accavitti with designer Ikeda

Acura Announces Leadership Changes

TORRANCE, Calif. July 27, 2015 – Acura today announced that Jon Ikeda has been promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the Acura Division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. In this role, Ikeda will oversee all Acura brand activities including sales, marketing and parts and service.

Ikeda was formerly Division Director of Auto Design at Honda R&D Americas, Inc. (HRA). He began his career at Honda in Japan in 1989, joining the advanced design studio in Tokyo, where he worked on the award-winning Honda FSX show car. After six years in Japan, he returned to Los Angeles in 1995, to continue his career at Honda R&D in Torrance, California. Ikeda has been actively involved in numerous production and research related projects for both Honda and Acura vehicles, including leading the design team for the 2004 Acura TL, the best-selling Acura model of all time. He was instrumental in the creation of the Acura Design Studio in 2006, a facility exclusively devoted to Acura vehicle design. He also led the Product Planning Division at HRA.

Ikeda holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

“Jon Ikeda brings tremendous knowledge and talent to Acura. From deep R&D experience with the brand, he has emerged as the ultimate advocate for Acura and has built a record of solid achievement and success,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc, and leader of both the Honda and Acura Automobile Divisions.

“The Acura brand is enjoying a great deal of positive momentum with the most competitive luxury SUVs in the business, a revitalized sedan line-up, and a clear path forward,” said Mendel.

Ikeda succeeds Michael J. Accavitti, who had been with American Honda since 2011, and who led Acura since April 2014. Accavitti is no longer with the company.

Acura also announced that Matthew Walsh, who has served as Senior Manager of Acura Field Sales since April 2014, has been promoted to Assistant Vice President of Acura Field Sales. Walsh is responsible for all dealer relations, field sales activities and sales operations.