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New York show: Nissan aims low for Altima sales

On the way: Nissan Australia will look to equal the sales of mid-sizers like the Mazda6 with its forthcoming Altima.

Nissan’s Altima set to play second fiddle to Toyota Camry in Australia

10 Apr 2012

NISSAN Australia is shooting for a conservative 500-600 sales a month from its new mid-size sedan, the Altima, once it lands in local showrooms in the second half of next year.

This would place it well behind Toyota’s market-leading Camry, which this year has averaged 1731 sales a month, but in a similar league to Mazda’s imported Mazda6 that itself is due for a total makeover in the next two years.

In the United States, where the Altima was unveiled at the New York motor show by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn last week, the current Altima has been bridesmaid to the Camry as America’s largest-selling sedan.

Nissan has been without a mid-size contender in Australia for more than a decade, after swinging and missing with entrants such as the Bluebird and locally made Pintara.

The fifth-generation Altima promises a new beginning, with a new American-engineered body, choice of 136kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder and 201kW 3.5-litre V6 engines, and, reportedly, a hybrid version as well.

The Altima will make its Australian debut on the race track months in advance of the showroom car, with Melbourne-based Kelly Racing cladding a generic V8 Supercar of the Future race platform with Altima panels and equipping it with a race-modified Nissan V8 adopted from light trucks such as the US-made Titan and new-generation Patrol.

Unlike the front-drive road car with its continuously variable transmission, the race car will drive the rear wheels through the same transaxle gearbox as used by its Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon rivals next year.

The road-going American-made four-cylinder model is said to use 7.6 litres of petrol per 100km – 0.2L/100km less than the newly released 2.5-litre Camry in Australia – while the V6 is claimed to use 9.4L/100km, compared with the soon-to-be-superseded Toyota Aurion’s 9.9L/100km.

As GoAuto reported last month, Nissan Australia is weighing up its sourcing options for the Altima, looking at the US – which will produce cars for 45 markets at its factories at Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi – and potentially Japan and Thailand, which make the current Maxima.

New Nissan Australia CEO Bill Peffer said the Altima would be a strategic boost to Nissan’s ever-improving passenger car line-up and would offer a compelling alternative to the familiar products in the segment.

“Altima will also raise the bar in motorsport as Nissan’s entry in the 2013 V8 Supercar championship, where it will introduce modern-generation sedan styling and technology,” he said.

Nissan says it aimed for a “class-above” look and feel for the new Altima, inside and out.

It promises a premium look and feel, with extensive use of upscale, soft-touch materials and “craftsman-like attention to detail”.

Among those details are seats that Nissan claims use “neutral posture” seat development research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to improvement comfort in long-distance driving.

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