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Pricey trim levels prove popular with Kicks buyers

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One of Nissan’s newest additions, the Kicks subcompact crossover, was designed to bring customers to a crossover at a lower price point. But since going on sale in June, Nissan has noticed a trend: Kicks customers are asking for its most expensive trim levels.

“You’d expect a vehicle that starts at $17,990 to sell in that value range, up to the midrange,” said Billy Hayes, division vice president for Nissan regional operations in North America, referring to the 2018 model year pricing.

In reality, the Kicks in SV and SR trims is selling quicker than the base S trim, Hayes said.

The automaker’s explanation? The model’s paint and speakers.

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Nissan made two-tone paint an option on SV and SR trims, and also offers a premium package at the top trim called SR Premium. The package is highlighted by a Bose sound system made up of a pair of speakers inserted in the driver’s seat headrest, which adds $1,000 more.

“It’s flying off the showroom floors,” Dan Mohnke, Nissan Group’s senior vice president for U.S. sales and marketing and operations, told Automotive News on the sidelines of the Los Angeles Auto Show last month. “It’s the fastest-turning trim that we have for that vehicle.”

Early adopters of new nameplates typically opt for higher trims. But with the Kicks, that phenomenon hasn’t slowed down yet, Hayes said.

“This one has bucked the trend out of the gate,” Hayes said. “It’s had us go back to our assumptions and build more of the SRs, SR Premiums and two-tone paint. We’ll test it until we feel like we’ve built the right amount and we’ll keep it that way.”

Adjusting the production is tricky when it comes to the Kicks in two-tone paint, he said, because those units have to pass through the paint plant twice. That is a scheduling equation that has to be resolved at the vehicle’s assembly plant.

Nissan sold 17,608 Kicks in the U.S. through November. The crossover’s best month to date was November, with 4,032 units sold.

Hayes declined to say what Nissan expects the Kicks volume to be.

The 2019 Kicks starts at $19,535 for the base model. The midrange SV starts at $21,245 and the SR trim starts at $21,865. All prices include shipping.

The subcompact crossover segment, led by the Subaru Crosstrek, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore, is growing in entrants, with a handful of other new nameplates joining at around the same time as the Kicks.

The Kicks is based off Nissan’s Versa subcompact car, which is offered in either sedan or hatchback, the Versa Note. The Versa, the No. 2 best-selling model in its segment, has felt the consumer shift from cars to light trucks this year, with U.S. sales off 31 percent through November to 69,074 units.

Hayes says the Versa remains important in the automaker’s portfolio because of its pricing. The Versa sedan starts at $13,245, including shipping, while the Versa Note starts at $16,535.

“It’s a way for consumers to get into the Nissan brand,” Hayes said. “We’re building the brand on Versa sedan. Vehicles like Versa sedan and Sentra, in that price range, are competing with used cars in a lot of cases. Used cars are pretty much the biggest segment out there. But at the price point where consumers are buying used vehicles, they can get a brand-new vehicle with a brand-new warranty with fantastic quality. If we’re going to be realistic about bringing customers to the Nissan brand, it positions us in a pretty good place and our dealers see it the same way.”

But Hayes said Kicks and Versa customers are different.

“The Kicks customer is younger and their credit profile is better than on a Versa customer,” he said. “Kicks is a younger, professional customer, while Versa runs the gamut, from a college student looking for affordable and reliable transportation, to empty nesters.”

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