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Nissan set to axe Maxima

Altimatum: Confirmation that the next-generation Altima will come to Australia could spell the end for the long-running Maxima here.

Maxima future uncertain as Nissan Australia confirms all-new mid-size Altima

Nissan logo29 Nov 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in TOKYO

NISSAN has confirmed it is planning to mount a full-scale attack on the medium-car segment in Australia with the forthcoming next-generation Altima.

The move could see the slow-selling Maxima large car dropped from the local line-up after 20 years.

Following GoAuto’s exclusive report in August that Nissan was preparing an assault on both the medium-size passenger car and SUV segments Down Under, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson has told us: “We will be there with the next-gen Altima.”

Speaking on the eve of the Tokyo motor show this week, Mr Thompson revealed his ambitions to attract Toyota Camry, Ford Mondeo and Mazda6 buyers with the new Altima.

“The current Maxima … is a great car but it just hasn’t hit the sweet spot – and it’s about finding that sweet spot. We will be there with the next-gen Altima,” he said.

“Our intent is to have a proper medium-sized car. It’s no secret that the large-car segment is in severe decline, and it makes more sense to try and be more competitive in the medium segment.

12 center imageFrom top: Current Nissan Altima sedan, Nissan Altima coupe, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson.



“At this stage we’re there with the entry-level Maxima, and it’s nearly at the spot but not quite.

“So we will be there with something with the next-gen car that smacks us down right in the heart of the medium segment. I think that’s where the future success lies.

“The opportunity for us is selecting from the greater choice in the D-segment, so we’ll have to wait to see.

“But I can assure you that the next Maxima replacement for Australia will be a far superior and far better-aligned product for the Australian consumer than what we have today.”

The Altima range will likely also include the first hybrid-powered Nissan offered in Australia.

Mr Thompson said Maxima’s fate was not sealed, with the company deliberating over whether the 21-year-old nameplate would continue alongside Altima to maintain representation in the large-car segment, but the odds are clearly stacked against it.

“It makes more sense with my philosophy (of maximising efficiencies) that we would try to cover a segment with just one product, but I don’t believe one product can cover both medium and large, so we have to make a decision on whether we want to try to straddle it as we’re doing now or play in the heart of medium.

“My opinion would be to go in the heart of medium.

“We’ll keep watching the large segment to see if there will be a future there, but there is nothing to indicate that there is.”

The fifth-generation Altima that will come to Australia has been developed in America.

Due to be unveiled early next year as a 2013 model, and debuting an all-new platform, it will feature a new-generation X-Tronic continuously variable transmission as part of a revised drivetrain that will include a supercharged petrol-electric hybrid four-cylinder powerplant with the performance of a V6.

A direct descendent of the last Bluebird that was sold in Australia from 1993 to 1997, the Camry-sized Nissan has enjoyed considerable success in recent years against the Camry and Honda Accord in the US.

Available in four-door sedan and two-door coupe bodystyles, the current Altima uses the same front-drive Nissan D platform as the Maxima and is powered by a 130kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine or a 201kW variation of the Maxima’s 3.5-litre V6.

Since its release in Australia in May 2009, the Maxima has failed to hit the 250 monthly sales target Nissan set for it, retaining the series’ long-term average of 150 units a month.

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