By on September 25, 2015

i30

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It’s an old idea, but one that has increasing relevance in an era where automation is likely to permanently tilt the balance between capital and labor well off the scale. When all the jobs are done by robots, and the robots are owned by a small group of people, and there’s no way to earn enough money through labor to buy robot capital of your own, then won’t we have entered a stasis of sorts in society? And won’t the bolder thinkers among us then propose that the spoils of the robot labor be divided equally? And won’t they have a bit of a point?

There’s also the idea that if you have something that you don’t need, and someone else needs something that they don’t have, and the “something” in question is the same thing, that the reasonable thing to do is to hand that thing that you don’t need over to the someone who needs it. This was the argument I used in 1987 when my brother, known to all and sundry as “Bark M”, found himself in possession of a set of new Z-Mags thanks to our parents liking him best. He didn’t need another set of wheels, but I’d just broken my back wheel riding off a loading dock for no reason at all, so I requisitioned his Z-Mags for my own use. This was made easier by the fact that I was fifteen years old and he was nine. That’s another lesson: equitable redistribution usually requires unreasonable force.

So what does this have to do with the Nissan Maxima, recently summarized in these electronic pages?


Well, it’s simple. Nissan doesn’t need the Maxima. If you take a look at GoodCarBadCar, you’ll see that the Max struggles to do 60,000 sales a year. You can easily see that the Avalon thumps it, but what you perhaps cannot see in those sales figures is that the average Avalon buyer is a well-heeled Baby Boomer who buys the Limited Hybrid model and pays full whack at the dealer while the average Maxima buyer is a rental-car company that expects a free-fall discount.

I don’t think you can make the case that the Maxima particularly helps Nissan. At best, it’s some extra fleet volume; at worst, it’s a showroom albatross that, when discounted to prices the customer will pay, clashes embarrassingly with the high-end Altimas. Think of it as an anti-halo car. With a halo car, the process works like this:

  • Customer comes in to see the Hellcat
  • Customer finds out, to his neurotypical surprise, that you can’t get one for $399 a month
  • But wait! The Challenger SXT can be had for $399 a month!
  • Customer leaves with Challenger SXT

With an anti-halo car, it works like so:

  • Customer comes in to see the Altima
  • Customer sees Maxima with giant SALE banner
  • Customer compares price of discounted Maxima with less-discounted Altima
  • Sees that Maxima is a better deal
  • Doesn’t really like the Maxima
  • But he’ll be damned if he’ll pay just as much for an Altima as he would pay for the Maxima he doesn’t want
  • Customer leaves, buys a Camry, which is what his wife wanted him to do anyway

You, the intelligent reader, can see the superiority of the first business model over the second. “But wait,” you are saying, “that applies to the old Maxima, not this new and improved one.” Alas, dear reader, it does not matter. We no longer live in an era where the excellence of a particular product has much in the way of redemptive quality. Market positioning and brand power rule the roost. (If you’re reading this on an iPhone, then Q.E.D.) The Maxima has neither. Not only does the Maxima name mean less than nothing, the Nissan brand has precisely zero upmarket cachet. It doesn’t even have the sort of millionaire-next-door cred that Toyota and, to a lesser degree, Honda enjoy. If you take a moment to consider your own mental images of “base Altima owner” and “base Camry owner” you will see that I am correct.

So Nissan could stand to lose the Maxima and be none the worse off for it. The dealers would use the resulting empty room on their lots for Muranos and Rogues, which sell at closer to MSRP in far less time. The existing Maxima customer base would just specify another car for their “Premium (or similar)” level, probably the Buick LaCrosse or Hyundai Azera. This is a victimless execution.

Except, of course, for the factory and its workers, who have an expectation of being permitted to build some Maximas. There’s also the matter of paying for the tooling and honoring the supplier contracts and whatnot. So the efficiency-minded among us might be tempted to ask, “If Nissan doesn’t need the Maxima, is there anyone who does?”

Chrysler could certainly use a large front-wheel-drive car, that’s for sure, and they even have a name set aside for it: Dodge Diplomat. A Pentastar-powered Maxima, yclept Diplomat, would be a very nice thing. It would certainly outsell the Maxima. GM, too, could use a front-wheel-drive platform with origins in this millennium, but the current Impala is really just about as nice as the Maxima and they already have the brochures printed, so we can forget about that.

Is there anyone else who is suffering from lack of a semi-prestige front-wheel-drive large sedan?

Well, the image at the top of this column gives it away, doesn’t it? The company that most needs a Maxima is Nissan’s own sub-brand, Infiniti.

“But wait,” you say, “Infiniti’s brand values don’t include some big Fail-Wheel-Drive barge.” I assume you’re kidding, dear reader. Infiniti has no brand values whatsoever. It’s always been a grab-bag of whatever Nissan had sitting around the Japanese showrooms. The original Q45 was a Nissan President — although, to be fair, the idea of the Q45 was certainly on Nissan’s mind when the President was being developed. The Q-cars that followed were rebadged Nissan Cimas with virtually no US-market development. The G35 that took over as the “heart of the brand” was a Skyline. Only the FX-thingys were really meant from the jump to be exclusively Infinitis. The current lineup is a dog’s breakfast of awkward-looking SUVs and the Q50, which is lovely inside but doesn’t really exude much sporting intent.

Over at Lexus, by contrast, they have the almighty LS which was only incidentally a Celsior and the RX which was only incidentally a Harrier, and they drive the business from the halo and volume perspectives. Until recently, the Lexus brand didn’t include “sport” or “aggression” in its list of priorities, but the third-generation IS has really taken off. Guess what? It outsells the G35/Q50 most months.

Think about that for a minute. The standard-bearer of entry-level Lexus sedans is the ES, but the side-piece IS is beating the G35/Q50 all by itself. This is roughly equivalent to what would have happened had Pat Boone’s In A Metal Mood become the best-selling rock album in America, and it amounts to a white glove across Nissan’s face.

What’s Nissan to do? The answer is obvious: resurrect the I35, which was a Nissan Cefiro, which was kind of a Maxima. As a Nissan, the Maxima makes a great Infiniti. It could be restyled with the current bland Infiniti corporate face, filled with gadgets, marked up a bit, and sent out to do battle with the ES350. Of course, they couldn’t call it an I35 because of the monumentally moronic naming scheme they have in place now, but that’s a fix for another day.

The truth is that front-wheel-drive big sedans work better for the average entry-luxury buyer than the sporting RWD/AWD four doors do. There’s more room, lower price, more predictable driving dynamics. That’s why the Lexus ES continues to beat the Lexus IS in showrooms despite being conspicuously absent from television ads and marketing campaigns. In time, the Q-Maxima would surely beat the Q50 in the showrooms, for the above reasons. If the sales volume didn’t immediately match what the N-Maxima does, that would be considerably offset by the lack of rental-car discounts.

Everybody wins. Nissan sloughs off a car they don’t need. Infiniti gets a product that it desperately needs. The Maxima makes a better Infiniti anyway and I’d like to see it with the absolutely stunning interior makeover that came with Q50. Seriously. If you haven’t looked in a high-end Infiniti lately, you should. They really have that stuff down. So why not put it on the lower-cost platform that could be made right here in the United States, and take the fight to Lexus?

Let me not to this marriage of product and placement admit impediments. Yet I fear that there are, in fact, impediments, and I fear they are too strong to be overcome. Chief among them are an unwillingness to accept change and reluctance to admit fault. No doubt we would hear that the Infiniti I35 failed to set the world on fire its first time around — but didn’t socialism actually set the world on fire its first time around, and won’t we all still see the red mist the day the robot comes to sit at our desks?

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108 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Return Of The Max...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    If only Japanese sedans were still styled like that…

    If I could buy a factory fresh I30 like that today, I would.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      That is one nice Buicktized Nissan Maxima. The I30 was one of the best leases back in the day. It was practically the price of an Accord. Had and uncle that leased one then went right back to Lexus after that lease.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      It’s frikin hideous!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Agreed. The big problem with the Gen4 Max was that both styling and interior quality were obviously sacrificed for production cost. The I30 remedied both of those things and was a perfectly nice family sedan that was a bit more involving, and a bit more roomy, than an ES300 of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        A Russian friend had a “Cefiro” (read: I30) of this generation that he bombed around Novosibirsk in. This guy was terrible with maintenance and upkeep and the car was always filthy, but I’ll be damned if the thing didn’t just keep going and going and going… even on those roads I never heard a squeak out of the interior. Of course, my cousin’s ’93 Toyota Corona is much the same. Subjected to shocking abuse on dirt roads on a daily basis (ie his commute) and besides some noisy struts the thing is a bank vault. I came back from my last trip there with an even deeper respect for mid 90s “fat” Japanese cars.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The version of the Max/I30 most people don’t know about is the SM5. Sold in Korea for several years as this Samsung (98-05!), it had the appearance of the I30. There was no Maxima appearance version.

          When I was there in 08-09, they were still everywhere and still in taxi use. They got smaller engines ranging from 1.8 – 2.5, including the SR2.0.

          There was also the SM520V, which was the luxury “more formal” variant, seen here.

          http://img13.deviantart.net/3ed0/i/2009/299/5/c/different_rear_of_samsung_sm5_by_kia_motors.jpg

          The upper trim versions also were available with hood ornament and two-tone, like this 03+ version seen below.

          http://www.yangdaeyong.com/data/cheditor/0807/2_copy.jpg

  • avatar
    jmo

    That was very well written. And, your proposal makes total sense.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I would like to think it was well written, but the phrase “a dog’s breakfast” has totally sidetracked me and I couldn’t pay attention to the rest. I just have a mental video loop of a big brown dog happily eating breakfast while a handful of onlookers (likely with coffee) remark “Oh who’s a hungry boy! That’s right you eat up your noms, eat ’em up good! Good boy, gooooood boy!”
      Wait what was I saying?

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Infiniti styling excepting the G and M series, whatever they’re called now, is terrible. Customer care is also substandard. Ours is serviced by an independent garage.

    The vehicles combine Japanese reliability and maintenance ease with near-German performance at lower price points. That’s why we have one and will replace it with another when the time comes. Front wheel drive, however, is a deal breaker.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Automation is great, but its rapid ascent has been fueled by the self-loathing of mankind. Labor hours are taxed-heavily and regulated more heavily still. Machine hours are not taxed; instead, they are subsidized with public monies to keep them safe, powered, maintained (public education), and serviced with roads and other ancillary public programs.

    We’ll probably tax machine hours as heavily as we tax labor or we’ll liberate the unskilled and semi-skilled workers from the scurrilous effects of the federal animal farm (lol).

    Anyway, the Maxima should probably be redistributed to someone who needs it, but I’m not sure if a front-wheel drive luxury sedan will work. Toyota has the market cornered. The ES is the ultimate vehicle for value-seeking business/status-minded individuals. It’s value is predicated on resale value and impeccable reliability. Resale value and perfect reliability are not compatible with anything that starts life as a Nissan.

    BTW, nice Mark Morrison reference

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      FWD (entry-level) luxury cars dont work? Ask Mercedes about that. If I was a “status minded” individual, the pointed star means more than a psuedo luxury Camavolon with an even uglier mug than what its based on.

      Cadillac has successfully sold FWD luxury cars before they decided to chase the 5 series instead of the Town Car. Audi sells FWD luxury cars, as does Lincoln. Perhaps you missed it above, but the FWD ES outsells the RWD IS.

      The type of buyer for this sort of car probably has no idea which wheels are actually moving the car and only cares about getting looks from the neighbors/co-workers when they pull up.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Audi sells plenty of FWD luxury cars in Europe, but in the U.S. I’d guess something like 98% of their sales are AWD. The old A3 was really the last car that they sold in any volume here in a FWD configuration.

  • avatar
    ScottE5

    This makes total sense, Jack.

    Make it so Nissan/Infiniti.

    Then get to work reviving the G20 with your German partner’s 2.0L turbo four.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Jesus, Jack! You’re killing me.

    Just like my mediation mentor, Sam Harris, you seem like a real regular guy. The both of you seem like fun guys you wanna hang around a bar with! But I wouldn’t understand half the shit being said.
    Like Sam, I miss half the words you use and unable to grasp their meaning their in the sentence!

    So I just accept you know what you are talking about and, tilt my head like a puppy, and nod in agreement.

    But can you write another version No Fixed Abode: Return Of The Max…for dummies?

    I agree! I think,

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    We did this experiment already with the old I35. I suppose the identical Maxima cannibalized it, but in any case all of that is irrelevant. Outside of the Avalon, ES ans S-Class large sedans are in a state of sales decline ranging from a slow drip to a hit femoral artery.

    Truthfully the new Maxima is the Murano. Works perfectly under the Nissan name, and while it’s not an eye-widening rocket like the 4th-6th gen Maximas, let’s not pretend like any Maxima beyond the 3rd gen was anything to talk about dynamically anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      That’s a very good point. The Murano shows the care and attention to detail that the Max is lacking these days. It’s a genuinely nice car and a real contender for those who want a jacked-up five-passenger wagon.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Infiniti has no need for another sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’d have to agree. With the price they put on the Maxima, you’d be at price parity with other Infiniti models once they transformed it – yet it would still be a FWD boat.

      And nobody’s picking that when there’s an identical sized RWD or AWD option sitting in the same showroom.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Lexus makes a lot of money selling the ES, a front-wheel drive sedan.

        But at this point, it doesn’t make much sense for Nissan or Infiniti to chase those customers, when its long-term prospects for getting those customers are poor. Niches for the crossover market would make more sense.

        Also, by today’s standards, selling 50k units in this segment as does the Maxima is actually pretty good. It shares a platform with quite a few other cars, so it’s probably profitable even at those volumes. Punting on that for a completely new nameplate from another brand doesn’t make much sense.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree I don’t think the ES buyers are really there for the taking or loaded Avalon and Impala sales would be higher (or Acura sales for that matter). I would say it would be better to drop the MAX altogether then to move it to Infiniti. I’m actually happy they do build the MAX because I’m sad every time a fullsize car goes away.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    Nissan/ Infiniti’s problems go beyond just the Maxima.

    There isn’t a single Nissan car I’ve seen stylewise in the last decade besides the Z I’d even want to be parked next to, to say nothing about being seen in.They’ve become the Japanese Pontiac, but without the discount price or Monsoon interior sticker.

    Nissan could be pruned down to their truck lineup , the Altima, and the Z and everyone would be better off. We’d also have to prune a lot of HQ product managers without cars to develop, but their and our children would grow up with eyes undamaged by atrocities like the Murano Cabrio.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      I thought that they were the new Mitsubishi, but I’m liking the idea of the Japanese Pontiac.

      Like a Japanese Pontiac or a brother on skates
      Like a blizzard in Georgia or a train runnin’ late
      I call out your name girl in the heat of the night
      And nobody answers ’cause somethin’ ain’t right

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      Infiniti user to be the Japanese Buick. But have gone sporty and now have been Pontiacized for some time now. They must lose cash on every sedan they make right now. Their SUV’s must carry the profits for now. But they discount them so much not sure how or if they are making a profit.

    • 0 avatar

      The CrossCab was the answer to a question nobody asked. But on some level, I also applaud Nissan for trying something out of the box, even if it was way out of the box. Same thing with the Cube.

      I bought a 2012 Pathfinder because it was one of the few BOF SUV’s left (and because they put a giant bag of money on the hood). With the new Pathfinder a unibody , the XTerra on the chopping block, and Chevy actually making a competitor for the Frontier, the unique stuff that Nissan had is going away.

  • avatar
    eManual

    I’m in the market for a near-lux to replace my present 2000 Chevrolet Impala, which is impossible, since it seats 6 in a pinch with a 60-40 split front “bench” seat. In addition, it has a 60-40 fold down rear seat, which comes in handy. And yes, front wheel drive is best for winter driving in Indiana. The Chevy also gets 33 mpg (with no Ethanol) on the highway, unlike most rear wheel drives.

    The Infiniti Max needs a 60-40 rear folding seat that comfortably seats 2 full size adults, with good engine torque like the 3.8 GM, along with a regular (no CVT) automatic. The interior can be modeled on the Chrysler 300.

    The Avalon and ES Lexus do not have fold down rear seats, which is a deal killer. The Lincoln MKS has lousy millage. Acuras are smaller and are expensive compared to a Honda. The Buick LaCrosse would work, but it has a smaller trunk that the new Chevy Impala.

    Like with Zackman, I guess the best thing to replace a Chevy Impala is another Impala.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I’ve been driving a Honda Accord with a CVT for about a year and think it was the correct transmission choice for a sedan used for commuting to work in heavy traffic. A well sorted out CVT is able to keep the engine rpm low most of the time while being able to access more engine power as needed without any interruption in acceleration or jolts. This car is going to be a large sedan competing with the Lexus ES so the disconnected feel of a CVT isn’t a negative.

      • 0 avatar
        eManual

        George, I drove a rental 2014 Honda with a CVT and was very impressed. My major complaint was the NVH on an 18 hour drive that left me feeling like I’ve been rocking in a canoe. The Honda has a fold down rear seat but it isn’t 60-40. As you can see, I keep my vehicles a long time, and the reliability of the CVT is still in question. Too bad the manual option for the base 2.4L sedan only comes with a black interior.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The CVT is the right transmission for this class. It’s actually the best thing about the Maxima in my opinion. Driven with a bit of CVT experience it makes the car butter-smooth.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        And it sounds like an angry golf cart or a car with a malfunctioning traditional automatic when accelerating strongly (especially from the outside as you hear it pull out or go by).

        CVTs are okay for otherwise boring midsize/economy cars, putting one in a “4-door sports car” is like turning an iconic sports car into a crossover (oh, wait, Nissan is doing that, too).

  • avatar
    ajla

    No one wants a large sedan anymore. Even the ones with some degree of cachet are in sales freefall.

    Crossovers and trucks rule everything now.

    They’d be better off turning the Rogue into an Infiniti.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The Nissan *Rouge*? What colors does it come in?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        The color of the Rouge River in Metro Detroit…industrial brown.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Whoops. Let me fix that.

        I’m more of a Camero guy anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I’ll race you in my Musteng

          I did own an Olds Achieva that my fiends thought would be funny to remove and replace letters on the badges. So I drove an “Odb Achieves” for awhile.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Does it have a manuel?

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Camero? Why not a V4 Camery or a Nissan Ultima? How bout a Buick LeSable or Mercury Sabel? You could just drive a Ford Tores like me, or find a Pontiac GOOOLE (aka 6000 LE). Id avoid the Toyota Carolla personally, along with VTech Hondas, Vortech/Vortex Chevys, Zetech Fords and Hunday/Keas. The Ford Crown Victory (blame autocorrect for that) is nice, though.

          A commenter on Autoblog a while back said the only people who spell Camaro wrong are jelous Mustang owners. Search for “Camero” on craigslist, its the dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks owners (murderers according to Mr. Clarkson) trying to unload them that are the worst at it! They arent the only ones who cant spell their car’s name (those above Ive seen on ads too), though, I actually found a “mukury Grand markeys” the other day!

          @corey, I have that song on my playlist lol. Very popular when I was in high school.

          Im trying to let my cousin’s wife turn her 2004 Chevy into a PIMPALA, but nothing so far. :/

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Someone, somewhere needs to put Jack Baruth in charge of product at a major car company.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      How about GM? The last time they had a car guy in charge of product it was a roaring success.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Great product idea for sure, but the strategy is somewhat precarious. Do you really want to meet the Lexus ES on the field of battle? Without Jonathan Pryce in the ad blitz, I’m not sure Infiniti would win a small sales-skirmish in Smyrna.

      BTW, whatever happened to the ad campaigns that told consumers to buy luxury cars because a stack of champagne glasses wouldn’t even ripple if stacked on the hood of a running vehicle. Those specifics quality achievements (fictitious or not) seemed more meaningful than the vainglorious pap of modern status-based advertising.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    “GM, too, could use a front-wheel-drive platform with origins in this millennium”

    Last I checked, the Impala is an Epsilon II product. That platform debuted with the Regal/Insignia in 2008.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Well and the current Impala did win a Car and Driver comparison. When was the last time an Impala won a comparison test? 1978?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You probably have to go farther back. ’78 was after GM downsized the Impala and that was the last year off the non-Panther LTD. Weren’t people all pi$$ed about GM downsizing the car? The Impala had to win an early 70s comparo though.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Actually the buff books were in love with the downsized B-body. C&D never cared in those days if the public liked it or not.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Well then yes, the 77 and 78 model would have won the comparo. At least until the Panther dropped in 1979.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            From what I’ve read, the downsized B-body was a smash hit with both buyers and the buff books, Ford’s answer to it by way of the first boxy Panthers was much less liked. Dodge tried to plod on with the supersized Monaco, there’s a funny dealer training video from 1977 where Dodge does its best to train dealers on making the competing Impala seem too small and not practical enough for a big family.

            linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBiJX0uC-cE

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That era Royal Monaco Brougham wagon was quite nice and stately.

            http://www.productioncars.com/gallery.php?car=12400&make=Dodge&model=Monaco

          • 0 avatar

            The downsized B-bodies were both critical and commercial successes. They were great cars that sold well, even if GM let the platform get a bit long in the tooth. The excellence of those cars only makes the mediocre (at best) X-bodies and other ’80s era FWD sedans even worse when you think of what GM could do when they put their mind to it.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Over on Curbside Classics it’s widely accepted that the Panthers were just a little too small compared to the B-bodies, but made up for it by being produced for another 15 years.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Now that I look at it, the downsized B-Body made the Impala the Motor Trend car of the year in 1977 and it was the best selling car in the US. Then the 80s happened and GM, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided that the Impala nameplate meant nothing to them.

            I think the early B-bodies are ugly as sin. Terrible. I like the later ones though.

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Thanks for the youtube links. Very interesting to look at cars back then. From that, admittedly promotional video, the Dodge seem to offer more.

            It was interesting to follow other youtube suggested videos and find out that these cars had around 93-97 cu ft interior volume. Small compared to mid-size cars today, let alone full size.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I would go in the opposite direction. Take the large Infiniti sedan (it used to be called the M45 – I can’t be bothered to learn what they call it now). Strip out the expensive doodads and rebadge it as the Nissan Maxima.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      There was a smaller M45 from around 00-03, based on the Leopard. RWD only, it was a pillarless sedan, and nobody bought it. I think they were going after former J30 customers.

      The M35/M45(x) came in 06 (replacement for discontinued Q45, which ran until 06), with a refresh in 08. Stayed the same from 08-10. In 11 it got a refresh and became the M37/M56(x), through MY13. For 2014+ it got a refresh and is now the Q70/Q70L available with AWD trim and Hybrid as well. It’s still available with the 3.7 or 5.6.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Thanks, CoreyDL
        So take the Q70 3.7, strip out the expensive stuff and call it a Nissan Maxima. $35K base, $40K loaded.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I think there are several issues with that theory!

          -Their largest sedan is now less expensive than the Q50 (G37).
          -Flagship is now FWD, with no AWD available (though the Maxima should have had AWD by 2004.)
          -The LWB version is new, since they want to compete better against the LS and presumably German entries. I don’t think they can stretch the Teana/Altima/Max platform to make it big enough. It would just have ridiculous overhangs.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I LOVE the first M45! I liked the J30 too, a lot more than the I30. I think Ive mentioned before that both the first M45, the J30, and the early M30 coupe have spots in my fantasy car collection. Id try to make them look a bit more like their JDM counterparts, along with a Honda Vigor and Integra.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      The failure of the Pontiac G8, the tiny sales of the Chevy SS, and the consistently decreasing sales of the 300 and Charger argue against this strategy. RWD volume sedans are a losing proposition because volume consumers get only disadvantages and no advantages from RWD. The enthusiasts who want a cheap big sedan can support one product (Charger) at best.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        The Pontac G8 wasnt so much a failure as it was tied to a brand that was a failure. I believe if the financial bottom hadnt fell out in 08/09, the G8 wouldve proven successful.

        The SS is too expensive and God knows GM did not plan on it being a vollume car. It does not accurately represent the large car market and should not be mentioned in the same breath as most Chargers and Maximas. Do you consider the 911 a failure since it doesnt outsell the Mustang? Makes as much sense as lumping the limited production SS in with more average and significantly cheaper large cars.

        The 300/Charger are successful for FCA. And RWD does have advantages for those seeking a sportier alternative to a bloated midsize FWD car (Maxima, Avalon, etc). A lot of people who buy 300/Charger wouldnt have even considered an Intrepid or Concorde. Many buyers of the Charger especially bought it because its a good ballance between a pratical, affordable family-friendly sedan and a RWD sports/muscle car (in other words, they cant easily fit child car seats in a Mustang, Camaro, etc so a sporty RWD four door that can be had with a tire-shredding V-8 is the next best thing).

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The G8 was a failure, because it lost money for GM. Even if it had sold twice as many copies it would have been a failure. It could not be sold at a profitable price; the result of selling it at a profitable price is the tiny volume of the SS.

          Yes, the Charger is good for enthusiast buyers who want a sedan. But there is a tiny and dwindling number of such buyers, as proven by consistently falling Charger sales that are a third or more fleet. I would not call the car “successful” at this point; the reason it stays is because it long ago amortized its costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Since Nissan keeps insisting on keeping the 4DSC moniker around, whether or not the current Maximas deserve it, I would have loved to see the old G37 sold as a Maxima instead – being related to the 370Z, it really is a 4DSC.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    We are rapidly approaching the sad world of Vonnegut’s Player Piano, where the labor of vast numbers of people are no longer needed, and an ever shrinking number of people will have meaningful work. Even skilled knowledge workers like computer coders and lawyers will become less and less necessary as machine intelligence increases.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree, and this will lead to civil strife.

      • 0 avatar

        There will always be a need for plumbers and other tradesmen. Things still need to be fixed. It’s telling that the computer and software industry relies on human troubleshooters to keep things running. I pulled into the wrong driveway yesterday because Google Maps told me to do so.

        • 0 avatar
          wolfinator

          Even IF that is true, that’s hardly the point. The question at this point in time isn’t “will all human labor be unnecessary”. It’s, “what do we do when only 10% of the labor pool is needed”.

          There isn’t sufficient demand in this economy for 150 million skilled plumbers. If everyone goes into the trades, wages will plummet down to minimum wage. (Or perhaps below – minimum wage is no longer the _real_ minimum in many industries rife with labor abuses.)

          Right wingers are always pretty glib about the prospect of a permanent labor surplus, because their ideology has no way to account for it.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            And left winger’s answer is gubment cheese. Thats how their idiology accounts for labor surplus. Tax the rich (working) to prop up the do-nothings.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            The assertion that welfare recipients are shiftless do-nothings is a tired, disproven one. Unless you have some numbers to back it up?

            http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/jan/28/terry-jeffrey/are-there-more-welfare-recipients-us-full-time-wor/

  • avatar
    George B

    Interesting idea. Lexus seems to be able to sell the FWD ES and RX beside the RWD models, but maybe that’s because Lexus has traditionally put a higher priority on comfort over performance. The main problem I see is whether a Nissan can achieve the conservative and somewhat upscale styling of the ES without throwing out all the new Maxima body panels and tooling. Lots of potential for styling dissonance with a mix of upscale combined with Nissan downmarket. Opposite of how GM took a conservative shape and added cheap looking Pontiac styling elements to the G8.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    The Maxima was last relevant about the time “Return of the Mack” came out 20 years ago.

  • avatar
    jfbramfeld

    I would describe this as well written if the first paragraph had been deleted and I could have quit searching needlessly for what socialism or communism had to do with the Max, which I found out relatively quickly referred to the Maxima. Also, fewer words would have been nice.

  • avatar
    ssjoeloc

    Maxima and Murano are related closely so costs can be spread out between the two. Maxima sells well around here (Chicago) from what I see daily. New model has been given a bit more style and substance. I see many Altima owners aspire to own a Maxima. Plenty of repeat buyers for Maxima. They typically wait for each new generation because they appreciate the style they can get for around 35-40k. I see some strong points on this matter but I still think the Maxima is a nice product in a great line-up. CVT is getting better with each generation of Maxima/Murano. Drive a 2016 before comparing it to an Altima.

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    I agree Jack. This article makes total sense.

    But, maybe because I own an I35. Its been the best car I have ever owned. Does everything well that we need it to, is comfortable, has every option we want and has been largely trouble free.

    The new Maxima styling is horrid IMO.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “but one that has increasing relevance in an era where automation is likely to permanently tilt the balance between capital and labor well off the scale. When all the jobs are done by robots, and the robots are owned by a small group of people, and there’s no way to earn enough money through labor to buy robot capital of your own, then won’t we have entered a stasis of sorts in society?”

    Luckily capitalism has made the means of production affordable. 3D printers for everyone!

    The problem the proles have is that they don’t know what to do with it.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “When all the jobs are done by robots, and the robots are owned by a small group of people, and there’s no way to earn enough money through labor to buy robot capital of your own, then won’t we have entered a stasis of sorts in society?”

    Please lay off the bourbon when writing your posts.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I would be VERY happy with a Maxima rental as opposed to the trash Malibus I typically get.

    I actually think the Maxima as Infiniti concept is a good idea – mostly because the Q50 is a complete disaster. Infiniti just can’t figure out what kind of cars it wants to make.

    I think Infiniti can basically be broken down into two distinct periods – pre G, and post G. (I’m not counting the G20 as the “G” here, nobody cares or has ever cared about that car.) In the pre G days, Infiniti was as described, basically a dumping ground for oddball, upscale JDM Nissans that they could hawk here against Lexus. Acura in those days was the Legend, the Integra, and the POS Vigor, which no one cared about, much like the G20. I won’t even get into the godawful Acura Trooper, ne SLX.

    Yes kids, there was once a time when Acura had two very nice, very competitive cars, and not a single SUV that was worth a damn.

    Anyway, so aside from the worthless G20, there was the I30 which to American eyes was essentially a Maxima GLE++, basically a glorified appearance package, the weird but kind of cool J30, and then the Q which never competed very well against either the Legend or the LS. Infinitis weren’t sporty, or prestigious, or even particularly luxurious. They were mostly about just getting a good deal vs. what the Lexus shop was asking for an ES.

    Then Nissan almost went bankrupt. Then Nissan decided that if they wanted to be relevant, they had to sell cars that were actually at least somewhat fun again. The back from near bankruptcy 2002 Nissan Altima was the first sign of life at Nissan. Instead of the bland, immediately forgettable Mazda 626 competitor, they had a ballsy, fun to drive car with a *powerful* V6. Sure the refinement was totally gone and the interior was made out of the cheapest plastic known to man, but people bought them in droves.

    The follow on to that was the brilliant 2003 G35. Which was the same sort of story as the Alitma, but even better. The interior was every bit as garbage – so cheap that they didn’t even bother to make separate dash designs for left and right hand drive versions, they just covered up the key-hole on the passenger side with a blank. It didn’t matter. The car was a blast to drive, Acura had no answer for it, and over at Lexus, all they could sell you was the IS300, which was pretty much equally crap on the inside because the JDM donor car, I forget what it was called, was never designed for Lexus duty. It handled well enough, but was completely gutless, saddled with the million year old iron block straight six from the Supra, de-tuned for just 215hp, less power than the SC300 had with the same engine 10 years earlier. People bought them in droves.

    Then the wheels came off at Nissan. The ’04 Max was bloated, ugly, not that fun, and just as nasty inside as every other Nissan at the time. There was never a reason to buy one. I disagree with Jack as I think the ’09 Max was much better than that car, I say the ’04 is BY FAR the worst of the entire Maxima run. The problem that the ’09 had I think is that it’s always been compared to cars like the Avalon and the Azera and the Lacrosse, and it really doesn’t compete with those cars. On rear seat room alone, anybody shopping Azera or Avalon would immediately write off the Maxima before even driving it.

    I think the Maxima competes with the FWD TLX and arguably the FWD RLX, and the ES. And it does a decent job at that, better than the awkwardly sized Regal at least. The interior in the ’16 Maxima Platinum is FAR better than the TLX, and at least as good as the much more expensive, terrible RLX. At least the NAV/infotainment setup is much better, that’s for sure. It’s much more comprehensible than the mass of shapes and blobs that is the current ES interior.

    The problem that the Maxima has is the fact that it’s called Maxima, and perhaps also that it’s being sold at Nissan dealers and not Infiniti dealers. I think that part is right on. The Maxima name has too much baggage, and requires all of the dumb “4DSC” logos that no one believes for a minute, or has believed in over a decade. You’re not fooling anyone, just stop.

    Make the styling more cohesive and upscale, make the Platinum version the standard model, and make it the new Q50. Kill the existing Q50. I’m not sure where the idea came from that the Q50 is so amazing inside. It’s not. I’ve been in one. Better than the TLX, but it’s not hard to be better than the worst interior in class, worse even than the ATS despite those nasty, nasty gauges. The rest of the ATS at least still beats the Acura. The Infiniti “In Touch” double screen system is just as stupid as Acura’s and just as terrible. The Nissan system in the Max is much better. Kill the Q50. It’s not fun anymore, the interior can’t hold a candle to the new Mercedes C-class or the new 2016 Audi A4, the e-steering system is a disaster, and the In Touch system doesn’t work.

    The only reason you’d buy a Q50 is if you don’t like the IS, and you’re so scared of German reliability that you won’t even drive one of them. Actually get behind the wheel of a 3 series or the new C, and you’ll never go back to the Infiniti dealer. If Inifniti can’t compete with those cars with proper engineering instead of stupid gimmicks like e-steering, don’t try. Give up. Beat the TLX instead with the Infiniti Maxima.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      Nice write-up. Agree with almost all of it.

      Interestingly, two people close to me just bought Q50s this past month. One is a mid-50s male co-worker who drives a ton and previously put 330k on a last-gen Lexus IS350. The other is a male friend my age (early 30s) who returned from abroad a needed a car; he narrowed it down to Lexus IS and Q50. Both said the deciding factor was styling — neither liked the new IS styling, and these two people couldn’t be more different from one another. The TLX didn’t carry enough “prestige” for either of them, neither wanted German or American (ATS).

      I do see a ton of new IS’s on the road here in Los Angeles and very few Q50s. And while Lexus gets a lot of attention for its new styling, it is turning at least some people off and driving them to Infiniti by default.

      I think Lexus is going to continue to lose sales due to its styling, especially on the RX. I think the the Caddy XT5, which is much more conservative, will see a big lift. While the Lexus look is striking, I don’t think it is actually ATTRACTING buyers; rather, people are buying because they are repeat customers or they are buying it in spite of the styling.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    So if I am reading this right, the point is, that ever since the Altima was brought up to the size of a Maxima (mid 2000’s), the Maxima has pretty much lost all meaning and purpose in Nissan’s lineup.

    This story is similar as to why Hyundai no longer sells the Azera in the Canadian market (not really sure why it still exists in the US market). Considering after Sonata… you get into Genesis… and then into Eqqus. The Azera really made little sense given it wasn’t priced much differently than the Genesis.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

    This worked great for 20th Century Motors.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    On that GoodCarBadCar site, it looks as though the Ford Taurus outsells the Maxima, and Ford is considering pulling the plug on it in North America due to declining sales in the full size market. That does not bode well for the Maxipad.

    Ill have to remember that fact the next time commenters here or elsewhere complain about how poorly the current Taurus sells. Considering the age of the car, it really doesnt sell that bad, and it outsells the Max (and plenty of Maximas are sold in fleets, as the author pointed out. I believe that it could carry on with the new large car platform and make a decent showing for itself, but oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I want to love the Taurus, it’s a big Ford! But unless they fix the issues with space utilization that make it the same size inside as a Fusion, it’s a no go for me.

  • avatar
    thenerdishere

    Let’s step back folks and appreciate that greatness that is Jack Baruth: Jack used “yclept” in this article. Awesome, just awesome!

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    In line with the opening paragraph and failure of capitalism, the car should be named Marxima.


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