DETROIT – Have you been wondering how real the swoopy, controversial Nissan Sport Sedan concept is? How about the Resonance? Very real, says Fred Diaz, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America.
The Nissan Sport Sedan Concept made its debut at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January. The next Nissan Maxima has “incredibly similar styling cues that come from that concept,” Diaz told the Automotive Press Association on Thursday. “I think you are going to be shocked at how beautiful it is.”
That would make the first all-new Nissan Maxima in seven years, an expressive full-size front-wheel-drive counterpoint to the brand’s rather plain, bread-and-butter mid-size Altima. With the new Maxima, which is expected to premier some time next year as a 2016 model, Nissan clearly expects to revive the old “four-door sports car” tagline, even though the front-wheel-drive sedan will likely combine a CVT with its V-6 engine. A performance hybrid version also is expected.
Before the new Maxima arrives, Nissan will replace its Murano late this year. The design of the 2015 model will look much like the Resonance concept, which premiered at the NAIAS in January 2013.
“You are going to be very shocked by how close the new Murano is to the Resonance concept,” Diaz told the APA crowd.
Diaz joined Nissan in April 2013 after a quarter-century at Chrysler, where he helped launch the Ram brand as an offshoot of Dodge’s truck business. He spoke of how eager he is to replace the twelve-year-old Nissan Titan full-size pickup. The second-generation Titan was supposed to have shared its platform and many components with the current Ram 1500, but the deal was canceled when Chrysler entered bankruptcy.
Nissan rebounded by signing a deal with Cummins, Dodge/Ram’s longtime heavy-duty engine supplier, to provide a new 5.0-liter turbodiesel for the next half-ton Titan. The new engine will produce a torque number “in the mid-500s” of pound-feet. The new truck arrives for the 2015 model year, a good five to six years later than originally planned.
The Japanese automaker also showed a Frontier mid-size truck concept — called the Diesel Runner, with a 2.8-liter Cummins four-cylinder turbodiesel rated 200 horsepower and 350 pound-feet — at the Chicago Auto Show in February. Diaz said Nissan is measuring consumer interest, although with impending Corporate Average Fuel Economy increases, and given the Frontier’s age, it seems like a necessary upgrade.
Diaz can take some credit for Ram’s success last year, when the brand sold 355,673 full-size pickup trucks, up 21.2 percent from 2012. Meanwhile, Nissan sold only 15,691 Titans, off 27.3 percent from the previous year.
“We currently compete in 55 percent of the [full-size] segments,” in terms of bodystyles and other model variables. “Our expectation is to compete in 90 percent of the segment” with the new truck, he said.
Nissan is having greater success in other segments. Though a stated goal to make the Altima number one in its segment — ahead of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord — is a long shot, the brand has had success with its late-2013 price reductions. The new price positioning was designed to align sticker prices more closely with transaction prices, reduce incentives, build the brand for the long term, avoid the perception of steep discounting, and improve online shopping and consideration, Diaz said.
“We were way too overpriced,” he said. The short-term result is that Nissan’s sales rose 12 percent in January, above industry average, and gained 1.1 points of market share, while the brand’s incentive spending has dropped by $375 per vehicle. It’s now $276 below the industry average, Diaz said.