The Nissan Motor Company has reported a record $US7.6 billion operating profit for the business year just ended, an increase of 12% on the previous year, reaffirming Nissan’s position as one of the most profitable auto manufacturers in the world.

The success of Nissan’s rejuvenated models has helped Japan’s third biggest manufacturer to sell more than three million vehicles worldwide for the first time in 13 years. Nissan is now seeing a valuable return on its R&D investment as new models launched in Europe and America have matched market needs and customers’ expectations. As a result, Nissan’s global market share reached 5.3% in 2003.

Since Renault increased its stake in Nissan to 44% in 1999, the Japanese manufacturer has made a remarkable turnaround. The intense competition in the automotive market pushed the company to focus on efficient sourcing, production and product design. However, Nissan is not resting on its laurels.

Under the new three-year business plan to start next April, president and CEO Carlos Ghosn has launched a drive for further growth over the next few years.

To reach annual global sales of 4.2 million units by March 2008, the Japanese manufacturer will expand its product portfolio; launching 28 all new models over three years. In addition, its luxury brand Infiniti will be introduced to more markets around the world as part of the strategy of expansion across all segments in the passenger car market.

This move to turn Infiniti into a global luxury brand follows the success of Toyota‘s own luxury brand Lexus. These efforts to spice up Nissan’s vehicle sales are aimed at further strengthening the brand worldwide, and its success depends partly on how far the Infiniti brand will appeal to consumers. For the moment though, it seems Nissan can do no wrong.