Sales figures from America and Europe are no less than shocking, but for all the doom and gloom, there are still some carmakers managing to buck the trend. According to reports, Ferrari is expecting record sales for 2008; Audi CEO Rupert Stadler is forecasting the same for the German carmaker, while Nissan is still reporting positive figures.

In a recent interview at the Paris Motor Show, Trevor Mann, Managing Director of Manufacturing at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, UK, confirmed that the company was about to add a third shift to maintain supply of the Qashqai and Qashqai+2.

“Although it’s a difficult year, Nissan is doing well at the moment. Year-on-year, our European sales are up 16 per cent. We are gaining market share in a shrinking market, so, at the moment, our heads are above water.”

According to Mann, the Qashqai represents between 25 and 30 per cent of total sales. August saw the Qashqai+2 arrive in European markets and he believes this will help sustain the company’s overall capacity utilisation. Sunderland will achieve peak production this year. This was reached in in 2007, but Mann is confident that Nissan will exceed figures from that year, and production has been forecast at more than 400,000 units for 2008. “In the case of the Qashqai, most units coming off the production line have already been sold. We do some stock orders, and it varies by market, but the build-to-order) is above 90 per cent on Qashqai.”

The success of the Qashqai has allowed the carmaker (for this model at least), to adopt what others are struggling to achieve with production cuts and shift reductions: what is essentially a build-to-order business model. Premium models have nearly always been built to order, each unit representing an investment that could not be allowed to grace a holding area for any extended period. The same can now be said for mainstream manufacturers – standing units simply tie up too much cash to remain unsold. By whatever means, carmakers need to adjust production to fit consumer demand, or else excessive inventory will be the anchor that ultimately drags the ship under the proverbial waves.