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New York show: New Maxima on Aussie agenda

Home town rival: The Nissan Altima is safe for now, but the funky new Maxima could elbow it aside if it doesn’t pull its weight.

Two years after being replaced by Altima, Nissan may bring Maxima Down Under

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Nissan logo6 Apr 2015

NISSAN revealed its eighth-generation Maxima at last week’s New York motor show, and the head of the brand in Australia has indicated that the company is keeping its options open for the nameplate’s return Down Under.

In an interview with GoAuto, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery revealed that he would look at the new Maxima when it becomes available for the Australian market in 2017 or 2018, and that the large-segment car could push the smaller Altima sedan off the table if the new car proved to be the more suitable model for Nissan in their relevant passenger car segments.

“We will consider anything available to us in the Nissan world, but it has to add significant volume,” Mr Emery told GoAuto. “I don’t want to add to complexity, and our model line-up is broad already. (But) it will have to be a discussion point over the next few years.” The Maxima’s bold, edgy styling – almost exactly as shown on the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept that debuted at the 2014 Detroit motor show – was a talking point at the New York show, and underlines Nissan’s message that the model would retain its position as the company’s self-proclaimed flagship “four-door sports sedan”.

Powered by a new-generation version of the company’s venerable VQ-series 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine that makes 224kW and 354Nm, the Maxima will offer a single transmission choice: a reworked CVT with a wider theoretical gear range and more distinct ‘gear’ steps.

Built on a reworked version of Nissan’s D-platform, the Maxima will – on the US’ s top SR version at least – feature a high level of chassis technology, including a unique chassis damper for the front of the car, as well as an Active Ride-control Module that continually levels the car’s ride with minute brake applications.

The five-car range also features a highly developed chassis tune, including monotube rear dampers, a front independent strut frame and rear multi-link double-wishbone layout.

The car’s weight is down 37kg on the previous generation, according to Nissan, but the body is 25 per cent stiffer, thanks to the use of more high-strength steel.

Mr Emery noted that the four-door Maxima – known internally as the A36 – is likely to be a US-only proposition in the short term, and that it would need to stack up on a number of fronts before getting the nod for a return to Australia.

“We have to see if it has upside in terms of volume. Do we need both (Maxima and Altima) cars? Probably not,” he said. “So then which one fits Australia’s purposes? What is available in terms of pricing and specification? If it doesn’ t fit I am not prepared to bring a car in, add to the model complexity and do 1500 cars (a year) here. It doesn’t help our business overall.” Mr Emery acknowledged that the two-year-old Altima, despite an expensive marketing push that includes backing a factory V8 Supercar team, has not performed well in the sales race, where it remains well behind rivals such as the Toyota Camry, Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty.

However, he was quick to underline the Australian subsidiary’s current commitment to the car.

“Are we sticking with Altima? Absolutely,” he said.

“The volumes are nowhere near where we want them to be. I could increase that volume, but it would come at a cost that I am not prepared to take. Because the fundamentals of the business circumstances that our key competitor (Toyota Camry) has are different to ours they have a factory they have to keep going.

  “I don’t need to chase them … We will stick with cars we can sell in a robust fashion. If that’s 150 a month rather than 250 a month, then that’s life.” The Altima sold 1791 cars in 2014 – its first full year on sale – finishing eighth overall in the under-$60,000 medium segment of 22 cars.

Mr Emery stressed that prevailing market conditions are just as relevant to any decisions around the two cars.

“I suspect when we get to 2017 or 2018, I think the passenger car business will be more robust and there will be some more opportunity for us, but I am not prepared to chase volume at all costs with that product,” he said.

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