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New York auto show: Nissan unveils full redesign of Altima sedan

April 04, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Nissan introduced a new version of its bestselling Altima sedan at the New York International Auto Show.
Nissan introduced a new version of its bestselling Altima sedan at the New… (Nissan North America )

Sales of Nissan’s Altima are up nearly 39% this year, making the family sedan the third-best-selling vehicle in America. So what’s Nissan going to do with the car that accounted for about 30% of its sales last month?

Scrap it.

That’s right, Nissan unveiled the next-generation Altima at the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.  It goes on sale this summer.

Nissan said the new Altima, equipped with a 2.5-liter engine, will get up to 38 miles per gallon in highway driving. The current version is rated at 32 mpg for highway driving.

Meanwhile, the car is also slightly more powerful. Horsepower for the standard engine has increased to an estimated 182 from 175.

The new design is sleeker, wider and sports a grille that has a hint of the new hourglass or spindle shape that Toyota’s Lexus brand is incorporating into its new vehicles.

The Nissan designers also have worked to cut noise from the new version by changing the engine and exhaust mount designs, working with the climate and boosting body rigidity.  They also have added more noise absorption materials to the build.

The automaker is trying to position the car as a more upscale entrant in the family sedan market.

“In a segment as critical as this, with longtime nameplates and new challengers fighting for every sale, it’s not enough to just target the competition. You have to think outside – and far above – the segment,” said Brian Carolin, Nissan North America’s senior vice president for sales and marketing.

With a starting price of $22,280 including destination fees, the new Altima will be fighting to keep Nissan’s strong share of one of the most competitive segments of the U.S. auto market.

The current version narrowly trails the new-generation Toyota Camry that came out last year as the bestselling passenger car in America. But the Altima has come out at a time when other automakers are launching their new versions of the family sedan.

Ford will start selling its new-generation Fusion in late summer. Honda plans to introduce a new version of its Accord. General Motors is rolling out a new Chevrolet Malibu.  And two recently redesigned cars, the Volkswagen Passat and the Hyundai Sonata, also are selling briskly.

Mid-size family sedans account for about 16% of U.S. auto sales, the auto industry's largest single segment. Carolin said it’s critical for Nissan to be successful in this part of the market because it often is the entry point for buyers into a brand and leads to repeat sales to the customers for years later.

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