President and Chief Executive Officer
In the 12 months since our last Annual Report, Nissan Motor Corporation has become a stronger, more efficient, and better-performing company. Fiscal 2014 was marked by many operational and financial improvements and by significant growth in key markets.
Although conditions were challenging in several markets, a combination of encouraging demand for new products and our sustained fiscal discipline led to record automotive net cash levels. This performance also enabled Nissan to maintain its progressive dividend policy, delivering attractive returns to shareholders.
Our shareholder returns and overall financial performance followed Nissan's success in enhancing its product line-up and delivering several award-winning models, like the X-Trail, which was named "Car of the Year" in China. In this period, we also took further steps to enhance e fficiency. This included reducing our per-vehicle total delivery costs. We improved monozukuri competitiveness and expanded Nissan's global manufacturing footprint and took steps to start increasing production in Japan. And we continued to lead the way into untapped markets, such as Nigeria, where Nissan became the first major auto brand to localize production.
As a result, we increased global volume and set a new sales record last fiscal year. This was driven primarily by our strong performance in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In North America, we saw record sales, with double digit gains. Nissan also saw a rebound in W estern Europe, where the market has strengthened following a period of volatility. This helped compensate for more difficult conditions in other regions.
Our market strengths continue to be matched by product innovation and the introduction of new technologies, not least in zero emissions. We maintained our position as the auto industry's undisputed leader for zero-emission mobility, led by the all-electric Nissan LEAF model.
During the year, Nissan expanded its network of partners across and beyond the auto industry. This included expanding our strategic cooperation with Daimler and teaming up with NASA to advance our Autonomous Drive vehicle technology. And we deepened Nissan's longest-standing and most important partnership, the Renault-Nissan Alliance. In 2014, the Alliance posted record synergies of 3.80 billion euros, up from 2.87 billion euros the previous year.
Taken together, these steps have ensured that Nissan has entered fiscal 2015 with powerful momentum that we will carry forward. The full scope of our global operations will continue to be guided by our strategic, mid-term plan, "Nissan Power 88." Clearly, we have high expectations for Nissan. To meet our goals, we will continue to execute our comprehensive, global strategy.
During the past fiscal year, Nissan launched 10 new models across all our brands. This product momentum has continued in fiscal 2015 with the launches of 6 all-new vehicles. Under the Nissan brand, we have the all-new Maxima and the all-new Titan pick-up truck in the US. In China, we will launch the all-new Lannia, a bold, sporty mid-size sedan for young Chinese customers. Our performance in China will be further boosted by the Venucia T70. And 2015 will be an important year for Infiniti. We will introduce two models, the Q30 and QX30 compact crossover, which will launch first in Europe and will be produced for the first time in Europe.
Nissan remains at the forefront of zero-emission technologies, producing and selling vehicles that contribute to a cleaner environment. The Nissan LEAF, the world's most popular all-electric vehicle, will pass the milestone of 200,000 unit sales in fiscal 2015. Our zero-emission product portfolio has been augmented by the launch of the e-NV200 light commercial vehicle and the Venucia e30 in China.
Nissan has been one of the foremost advocates for the development of recharging networks. There are now more than 14,000 electric vehicle (EV) chargers, not including home-chargers, in Japan. During fiscal 2015, the number of chargers in Japan will increase even further, and we will continue to develop our battery and vehicle technologies even further.
We believe that, in the near future, Nissan can provide EV drivers with even greater "peace of mind" range, by offering comparative mobility to today’s conventional vehicles. Our research is aimed at delivering exceptional range, well beyond anything on the road today.
Nissan is exploring new materials and chemistry solutions in order to make thinner, lighter weight and less costly batteries. We foresee the day when you leave your home with a full charge, and are able to go about your day with no concerns then return home with ample charge.
The current fiscal year will also see further progress in the deployment of Autonomous Drive systems – another pillar of our technology strategy. It reinforces our commitment to leading the way toward a "zero-fatality, zero-emission" future. Our goal is for Nissan to be ready to deliver Autonomous Drive vehicles by 2020. Until then, we will introduce components of this technology on a regular basis. Starting this year in Japan, we will apply our emergency-brake technology as a standard feature on our highest volume models. This will be followed in 2016 by the introduction of traffic jam technology, which will enable cars to drive autonomously and safely on congested highways. In 2018, we will introduce multiple-lane controls technology, which allows cars to autonomously negotiate hazards and change lanes on highways. And by the end of the decade, we will introduce intersection-autonomy, enabling vehicles to negotiate city cross-roads without driver intervention. This will empower customers to drive with greater confidence, ease and safety.
Delivering innovative, exciting products and technologies will continue to be the core of Nissan's business. To realize the full benefit of these activities, we also need to make sure that potential customers are familiar with our brands and aware of our vehicles and technologies.
That is why we are backing up our monozukuri activities with bold, targeted kotozukuri activities. One particular area of strength is our sports partnerships, such as with the Yokohama F-Marinos, City Football Group, UEFA Champions League and Infiniti Red Bull Racing, which have resulted in the improvement of Nissan's overall opinion scores and increased awareness of the Infiniti brand.
Another area of continued strength is our focus on Alliance-driven synergies. Since the Renault-Nissan Alliance was established almost 16 years ago, it has become the fourth-largest automotive group in the world. Last year, we sold 8.5 million vehicles. With a total of eight brands, the Alliance represents 10% global market share.
The success of the Alliance has attracted other partners, but we know we can grow further and achieve more.
To maximize Alliance synergies, last year, we converged four key functions in Purchasing, Manufacturing and Logistics, Engineering; and Human Resources. This has put us on track to over achieve our target of a minimum of 4.3 billion euros in synergies by the end of fiscal year 2016.
In fiscal 2015, we expect to outperform the industry sales pace and deliver record-high revenue and solid profitability. Globally, we anticipate that total industry sales volumes will increase 0.1% to 85.4 million units. With a number of new models launching from Nissan and Infiniti, we project our sales to rise by 4.4% to 5.55 million units.
Although market conditions remain challenging in Japan, Russia and Brazil, we expect to make further progress in the US, China and Europe. We also have high expectations for Infiniti and Datsun. As a result of all these factors, the quality of our earnings will continue to improve in fiscal 2015 and that we are on the right track with our mid-term strategy. Based on our performance outlook for fiscal 2015, and our expectations for continued profitability and solid free cash flow, we project an increase in the annual dividend by 27% to 42 yen per share.
Nissan has begun this new fiscal year in a position of strength. We are committed to achieving the goals of our mid-term business plan and keeping Nissan on a path toward long-term, sustainable growth.
We have the resources, the talent and the determination to meet our objectives. And we will continue to deliver for our customers and our shareholders. Thank you, once again, for your support for Nissan Motor Corporation.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
NISSAN: Enriching people's lives
Nissan provides unique and innovative automotive products and services that deliver superior measurable values to all stakeholders in alliance with Renault.