Nissan Says U.S. Sales in March Rose 27% to Monthly Record

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest automaker, said its March U.S. vehicle sales rose 27 percent to a monthly record.

The company sold 121,141 Nissan and Infiniti autos last month, an increase from 95,468 a year earlier, Al Castignetti, vice president of U.S. Nissan-brand sales, said today in an interview. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 16 percent gain.

“This was our best month ever,” he said. While the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan has slowed production of some models, Nissan still has about a 50-day supply of cars and trucks to begin April, he said.

Most vehicle production in Japan stopped after the natural disaster, which left more than 27,000 people dead or missing. Nissan, based in Yokohama, said yesterday that it plans to resume all auto assembly in its home market by April 11 as suppliers restart parts deliveries.

Shortages of some vehicles may push Nissan’s U.S. sales this month and next lower than the company had anticipated, Castignetti said, without elaborating.

Nissan said today that its plants in North America will operate on a reduced production schedule this month because of the quake-related availability of parts.

Work is being suspended April 8, 11 and 18-21 at auto-assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi, and an engine factory in Decherd, Tennessee, Nissan said.

An auto plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico, will be idled April 4 through April 8, and vehicle production will be suspended April 11 through April 15 at the Aguascalientes, Mexico, factory.

Nissan said it will try to make up for the lost production during the rest of its fiscal year, which runs through March.

The possibility of producing engines in Decherd for shipment to factories in Japan is still being studied, Nissan said. The company’s North American operations are based in Franklin, Tennessee.

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