By on May 16, 2012

Our own Michael Karesh will be testing out Nissan’s new Altima this week. This is the car that Nissan is hoping will take the Altima from its current second place slot in the mid-size segment and up to the top of the pile. In lieu of Michael’s take, there are a few factors that are worth looking at.

The Altima’s reign as the beta wolf among mid-size sedans was helped along by the tsunami, which saw companies like Honda and Toyota have their production schedules become severely disrupted. The Altima’s combination of strong incentives, adequate supply and a lower MSRP than non-Japanese competitors like the Hyundai Sonata (Hyundai is known to try to keep the transaction prices of their cars higher than other OEMs, while reducing incentives and dealer discounts) helped it vault ahead in the sales ranking and shed its also-ran status.

But the Altima will need to keep improving and growing sales at an inopportune time – a new Camry is on sale, and new versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord just around the corner, the 2013 Altima will face an incredibly tough field. So far, the Camry is outselling the Altima in 2012 by about 30,000 units, while the Altima has a nearly 16,000 unit lead on the third place Honda Accord. In fourth place is the aging Ford Fusion.

Nissan execs are stating that “We didn’t put all of the investment into this product and put in all the features with an expectation to be No. 2,” but as we all know, putting your best foot forward in this industry is not a reliable indicator of sales success.

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43 Comments on “QOTD: Is The 2013 Nissan Altima A Future Number One Or One-Hit Wonder?...”

  • avatar

    The Altima is a decent car, and as long as the new one gives it a better interior, it should continue to do well. Being a sales king, however, is far from a guarantee. The new Camry seems to be selling quite well, and it’s interior was improved substantially. I also see no reason for the Accord to drop out of the top three, especially as the “new” model comes online. Lastly, the new Fusion looks phenomenal.

    All in all, I’d say it going to be Camry, Altima, and the Accord and Fusion fighting it out for third place.

    • 0 avatar


      I think you nailed the sales order. I don’t think Nissan has the capacity to to beat the Camry, especially if Toyota fights losing the title. Toyota doesn’t just have the Georgetown plant to build the Camry. They have overflow production in Subaru’s Lafayette, Indiana plant. They might have overseas production capacity as well.

      The big loser I predict will be the Chevrolet Malibu. Actually, it won’t be too big a loser because a rising tide floats all boats. Still, Nissan’s 38 MPG highway rating, with a low price and a fullsize trunk beats the Malibu with its high price and compromised trunk.

      People knock the CVT, but the Altima is almost a second quicker 0-60 than similarly sized and powered cars with a 6-speed automatic.

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota won’t lose the sales crown because, frankly, they’ve built the absolute best car for 99% of commuting Americans. Most commuters just want to buy a car, put it in D, have it go and never break, be good on fuel, be quiet/comfortable/spacious, and then be worth a lot when they sell it. Camry crushes nearly everything else when this is all considered. The previous generation was kind of weak and showed a chink in Toyota’s armor in my opinion, but this new one to me is stellar.

        Altima sells well because it’s super cheap. They’ll probably consolidate a solid 2nd place ahead of the Accord if they keep up the value quotient (as others have said, same price as a Civic/Focus/Cruze will get you an Altima). The new Malibu is weak and will get crushed and sold as rental fodder–and I’m a happy owner of a 2010 Malibu that is a great car and was very competitive in 2010. The Accord will always have it’s fans but probably fight for 3rd with the Sonata and new Fusion. The new Fusion will probably be the enthusiast’s favorite but I’m sure it will be expensive comparatively–like other new Fords, and this will mean it will not fight for top of the sales chart.

  • avatar

    I’m intrigued by these Nissans, but if they put that annoying CVT in it: No Sale.

    • 0 avatar

      If you haven’t driven a current Nissan with a CVT you should give it a shot if you actually like the rest of the vehicle.

      I had a similar attitude due to some of the ridiculous CVT’s I had driven, particularly Chrysler products that would peg at redline anytime you tried to accelerate.

      Nissan seems to have gotten them pretty well figured out. Truth be told they don’t behave all that much differently than a smooth torque converter automatic, and there are no major complaints of durability issues, either.

      Now I don’t think I’d plan on a V6 backed CVT holding up for 300,000 miles, but the same can be said of many regular automatics, and I think the storm is brewing on all these dual clutch trannies coming out.

      Long story short if you are judging the CVT based upon older experiences, you may want to update your impressions. I don’t own one but I can honestly say I was quite surprised when I drove some of the new Nissans.

      • 0 avatar

        I drove a 2012 Maxima – 3.5/CVT – and positively hated how the transmission operates. Great engine and very good car spoilt by this incongruity.

  • avatar

    This looks more like a ’13 fusion than the actual ford does.

  • avatar

    I was always confused as to why the current Altima sells so well. It’s fairly boring and bland, and the interior is nothing to write home about. And while this new model looks good, it’s amplified primarily by how non-fantastic the current model is – this looks like a smaller Maxima, which is good, but I don’t know. I guess I don’t get it, much like I don’t get why/how people find the Camry so amazing when it’s competition is typically better.

    • 0 avatar

      Because it’s cheap. Not just Sonata cheap. 17 and change, Cruze and Civic cheap.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not only cheap, it benefits from the reputation of the first gen model in reliability. That first gen was a compact, and the current mid-size is more car for the money, always a sales-enhancer. I wonder how many sales are to former Altima owners.

        Someone mentioned the CVT, but Nissan CVTs seem to suffer far fewer problems than other makes, and it’s apparently tuned to provide a more conventional driving experience. I wonder if that reliability and tuning are related? For Nissan’s sake I hope so, since the CVT has crowded out their conventional ATs and fewer manuals are available in their lineup.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2009 (in refrigerator white), and it’s comfortable, quiet, gets decent (but not class leading) fuel economy. Due to the CVT, my four cylinder is slightly faster than a four cylinder Accord or Camry of the same year. It’s been very reliable. It does okay in the curves–handling is somewhat improved after replacing the OEM low rolling resistance tires.

      I don’t get the gripes about the interior. Everything is laid out very well, and the textured trim pieces on the radio, climate control, and storage bin don’t show smudge marks from fingers. The seat fabric is excellent. Yes, they use hard plastics below the belt line, but you don’t touch those areas very often.

      I’ve grown to love it (but am not in love with it) and would buy another one in a heartbeat.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Combine all that with segfault’s review and you realize why it sells so well. According to TrueCar I could get an Altima even with the V6 for loaded Cruze territory. Hell the Altima is as cheap as the current W-body Impala but a bit sportier.

      • 0 avatar

        I rented one a few months ago and also loved it. Interior was well laid out, nice quality materials, the steering was excellent, the car handled smaller than it looked, it was quiet and smooth, etc. It was certainly a better Altima than either the 1997 or the 2001 that I owned.

      • 0 avatar

        segfault, I am in total agreement. Add in that it handles better than the Accord, let alone the Camry and you have a winner. And you nailed it regarding the interior materials. Everything from the midpoint up is nicely finished with quality materials. Only the bottom half is a bit cheap. Maybe it is a gravity thing (LOL) as the carpet and mats are really cheap…

      • 0 avatar


        Yep, I just replaced the OEM carpet mats with OEM all-weather mats, at 62,000 miles. The backing on the driver’s mat had cracked and some of the nubs were coming off. The all-weather ones are black and won’t stain. If I keep the car another 62k, I guess I’ll get to find out whether they hold up better!

    • 0 avatar

      It’s competition isn’t that much better, unless you’re really picking over nits. If you read Consumer Reports, they’re quite impressed with the car.

      I’d agree: it’s a good car that’s pretty reliable, drives well, handles well and gets good mileage.

  • avatar

    To what extent are Altima sales enhanced by rental fleets? It may be just coincidence, but the last three cars I’ve rented have all been low mileage Altimas.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I had a rental Altima a few weeks back. My mom had another one as a rental shortly after. And I’ve lost count of how many other Altimas I’ve seen driving around with bar codes in the windows. It’s a good car, but a car at the end of its lifecycle doesn’t suddenly jump up in sales like that without some help.

    • 0 avatar

      Couldn’t tell you exactly, but Hyundai claims for 2011, Sonata was third at retail, behind Camry and Accord. So must be quite a bit. Last figure I saw was around 17% for the brand overall.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      I rent from National almost every week, and there are many Nissans there. I’m rather appalled at the ugly Nissan interiors–Lots of ill-fitted black rubbery and plastic pieces. It’s not just the Altima that has this problem–The Maxima too. Nissan needs to improve the interior a lot to keep up with the other makes.

  • avatar

    I often forget Nissan makes cars. Right there with Mitsubishi in the “forgotten brands” category of my brain. I’m quite aware of the Z cars, but the rest? Meh.

    • 0 avatar

      But unlike Mitsubishi, the rest of the US DOES remember. In the form of the Altima, Maxima, Versa, and Rogue mainly. The last-gen Murano was a runaway success as well, seeing as the crossover segment was just getting started.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe my social sphere is small, but I’ve only known 2-3 Nissan owners over the years. I just sort of forget they exist. I don’t think they’re as terrible as Mitsubishi.

  • avatar

    I have never really been a fan of Nissan/Infiniti cars sans their halo supercars, but this is the first mainstream Nissan product that has caught my eye. I think it looks fantastic, inside and outside.

    However I will reserve judgement until I test it out, and see what the interior quality is like, and how it drives.

    13 fusion is the one I’m looking out for as I have no confidence in honda doing the 13 accord well (this is coming from a honda supporter and multiple-owner).

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    Let me guess… larger in every dimension, heavier, less visibility…

    And good God is it ugly.

    • 0 avatar

      The last redesign of the Altima saw it get smaller and lighter. The Maxima got smaller, too. So there’s precedent.

      Now, ugly, well, it is Nissan. There’s precedent, there, too.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “It’s fairly boring and bland”

    When the last gen Altima came out 10 years ago, it was a stunner for the market….

  • avatar

    Why it sells well isn’t a mystery. It’s nicer inside than an Accord or Camry, handles well with actual steering feedback, it’s inexpensive but still holds its value well. The 3rd generation was sketch for reliability, but the 4th has been solid according to TrueDelta.

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    I’ve had several Altima rentals over the years and have never been impressed. While the steering feel isn’t bad, you start to hustle one faster than about 3/10ths the rest of car quickly loses touch with the front wheels. For most of the owner base, this probably isn’t an issue, but from a company who likes to play this up as the little brother to the Maxima, I expected better. I will agree though, that the interior wasn’t bad—especially for the price. Still not a fan of (any company’s) CVT though.

  • avatar

    The reality is that many Altima buyers are women like my daughter who bought an ’09. All they know about transmissions is put it in “D” and go. (most women anyway, not cuz they’re dumb, they just have other priorities) CVT’s will become more and more common due to CAFE requirements etc.

  • avatar

    So how did they get such a large increase in mileage? From 32 to 38 is a big jump.

  • avatar

    This car is coming to other world markets but so far it doesn’t look that interesting.

    The engine is the QR25DE which has seen duty elsewhere in the Xtrail SUV. Its a reliable motor but its longstroke and isnt one of Nissan’s star motors.

    It’s a CVT but generally Nissan’s Xtronic isn’t too bad.

    I’m guessing its somewhere like 3,300lb?

    Styling wise I think it looks fine.

    Its just not very exciting and isnt the Nissan sporty sedan we’ve been wanting.

  • avatar

    Put the 370Z motor in it, a manual transmission, and a quiet exhaust with ONE, I said ONE discreet exhaust tip that is not chrome, stainless, or 8″ in diameter and I will buy one TODAY. I just love sleepers. Paint mine dog-poop brown.

  • avatar

    The nissan altima has always looked great on paper,,,then when you see it in person it just dissapoints. Interior is cheap, suspension feels tinny, motor is too loud, electronic steering sucks, bad lumbar support with no lumbar adjustment below the sl package, etc. I’d rather have a mitsubishi.

    • 0 avatar

      Cheap interior? Compared to any car with a GM 3800 engine, the Altima’s interior looks and feels like a Lexus.

      I will grant you that the engine is not as refined as Honda’s four cylinder but is more refined than Toyota’s.

      Electronic steering? My 2009 has hydraulic steering.

      The seat support is not as good as a European car but no better or worse than the competition. As I noted above, the fabric quality and durability is the best I’ve ever seen in a mainstream midsize car.

  • avatar

    Sorry, but after dealing with these cars after they’ve seen years of actual ownership, the 3rd gen are garbage. Tinny construction, endlessly buzzy motors, poor fit and finish, weak automatic transmissions, easy-wearing fabrics, horrid suspension, lousy ride quality, no acoustic deadening, and junk radios are among the typical results of ~60-100k-mile ’02+ Altimas. Nothing says ‘subprime’ like a 3rd-gen Altima or ’04+ Galant.

    Certainly miles behind the never-say-die 1st generation, which not only seem to hold up better, but age better as well design-wise.

  • avatar

    Don’t mind the CVT in the current car. Do mind the Quasimodo headrests.

    Lots of cars these days seem to have these forward-pointing seat-tops, but Nissan is the worst. They say it’s a safety feature. And I suppose it is, in the sense that sitting in an Altima is a much safer way to injure your back than crashing.

  • avatar

    I have a soft spot for the Altima, my wife traded her POS 4 year old, always in the shop Pontiac Grand Pric, for a 1994 Altima. We drove that little car for 4 years, 80K miles and never had a problem. I wish I had kept it longer.

    New model? looks good, hope they sell well.

  • avatar

    I’m looking forward to reading the in-depth MK review.
    My wife likes the way the beige leather complements the (dog poop brown) java metallic exterior.

  • avatar

    This looks like they took the current Altima, grafted on the Maxima swoops, cheapened the sides by removing the bodyside moldings and calling it a day. Many will probably not even notice it’s a new car like the 2012 Camry. It will be interesting to see if the promised 38 highway MPG figure can move this car up the sales ladder from it’s current position.

  • avatar

    The problem is that the Altima sold particularly well largely because of the massive incentives they dumped on it…I can’t imagine the new one selling as well if they don’t continue to massively discount them. I guess we’ll find out.

  • avatar

    My mother has a wonderful 2002 Altima (white) 2.5 S. This car doesn’t look any different on the outside, and I think it has the same engine. I think it’s time to truly update the looks.

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