With public relations representatives heavily involved, it isn’t often manufacturers are very candid about their products and the competitions. There are, of course, some exceptions such as Bob Lutz. He just tells it like it is, and those of us following the automotive industry have appreciated that. Nissan/Infiniti executive vice-president of global planning and marketing Andy Palmer was pretty candid about the 2013 Nissan Altima in an interview with Wards Auto.
The Nissan Altima is currently the second-best selling passenger car in the United States, just behind the Toyota Camry. The Camry has held the title for a long time, thanks to an enduring reputation for reliability. It is the safe choice. With the 2013 Altima, while it wasn’t announced yet, we saw Nissan making a strong play for the top spot. A lot was put it into the cars design, as well as on increasing fuel economy.
Palmer says the goal is to topple the Camry, and the directive is coming from Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn. PHe also confirmed what most of us already knew: the Sonata shook up the competition. He says the 2013 Altima was delayed as a result.“Clearly, we referenced the Sonata when we were going through the design process…we even delayed development by a short amount just to check that the (new Altima’s) proportions were right, the (package) was right (and that) the product overall was right”
That is a surprising admission from a top-level executive. It is true that the resulting Altima is more premium in appearance than ever before, drawing heavily from the flagship Maxima. Despite referencing Sonata though, Nissan still went for a more conservative design thanks to its desire to topple the Camry. Nevertheless, Hyundai made U.S. car buyers and the industry take notice three years ago with the release of its latest, aggressively styled Sonata. “I’d say they are our major point of reference,” Palmer says.
“It’s Camry that is in our sights, (and) the target market is, relatively speaking, conservative….[they're] clearly looking for a vehicle with elegance but not so showy” said Palmer. Nissan has traditionally been the also ran versus Toyota and Honda, but that is changing. With the mid-size sedan segment more competitive than ever, it’ll be intriguing to see how sales shake out. The top three should continue to consist of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion for the foreseeable future.