By on March 9, 2020

Denis Le Not 2019 Nissan Altima unveil - Image: Nissan

The new-for-2019 Nissan Altima, arriving in the fall of 2018, marked a significant departure from the previous model. For starters, there was no V6 on offer; a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with variable compression technology set up shop as the uplevel option. Also different was the appearance of all-wheel drive.

In Chris’ review of an attractive AWD Altima, he made note of Nissan’s enthusiasm for the technology, with the automaker’s U.S. brass claiming a significant take rate for Altimas with four driven wheels. That may be true in the U.S., but how does a traditionally front-drive model fare when it’s only available in AWD? Canada has the answer.

North of the border, the Altima is a very different beast. It’s only available with all-wheel-drive — even the lowly S — and the newly direct injected 2.5-liter base four is the only engine on offer. That serves to push the model’s entry price northward; a 2020 Altima S currently goes for $30,040 after destination and fees.

The current-gen Altima’s revamp and infusion of both technology and capability allowed Nissan’s midsize sedan to pull off a near-miraculous feat: it arrested the model’s sales decline in the United States. After peaking in 2014, the Altima saw consecutive yearly volume losses. Until 2019, that is. The the new model fully online, sales stabilized, with 2019 showing an extra 37 units on the sales ledger.

In Canada, with choice eliminated, not added, the opposite happened. Go figure! The model’s sales slide accelerated, with volume falling 35.8 percent (it isn’t known to what degree Nissan’s efforts to reduce fleet volume played a role). A year earlier, at the tail end of 2018, Altima sales had fallen 21.4 percent and 18 per cent in Canada and the U.S., respectively — a fairly similar decline.

Fast-forward to today and Canadian sales over the first two months of 2020 show no sign of renewed demand for the model; year-to-date sales in February were down 44.2 percent. The Altima finds itself outsold by the electric Leaf nearly 2 to 1.

Sometimes, increasing choice has a positive effect on a product’s popularity, though the new-for-2019 Mazda 3 is proof that this is not a hard and fast rule. While Altima sales in Canada are indeed down, the automaker is saving money through its pared-down build configurations. Meanwhile, the addition of standard AWD is almost certainly helping the model’s margin. Rapidly sinking sales numbers, however, are not a good omen for a model’s long-term survival.

[Image: Nissan]

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19 Comments on “AWD-only Nissan Altima, Not Surprisingly, Isn’t Setting Sales Charts on Fire in Canada...”

  • avatar

    Perhaps the increasingly mild winters are making a lot of sedan buyers reconsider the AWD premium involved?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      No – perhaps not everyone in the snow belt thinks they will die without AWD.

      I’ve never had AWD here in hilly, snowy western PA in 40 years of driving.

      Another factor is this: Communities are insisting on instant road clearing after a snowfall. Any more, I rarely experience wheelspin even in the depths of winter, except in my own driveway.

    • 0 avatar

      The majority of Altima buyers in Canada are in more urban areas where AWD isn’t of much benefit. They would attract more buyers with the lower entry price (why else would you buy an Altima?) of the FWD but it’s possible there are profitability issues involved with the lower content cars.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The Altima finds itself outsold by the electric Leaf nearly 2 to 1”

    Wow – that’s bad.

  • avatar

    Canadians are generally more price-conscious. AWD drives up the base price. FWD and good snow tires are sufficient most of the time.

  • avatar

    Over 30 Grand for a base S model is a problem.

  • avatar

    Same mistake VW made in offering the Arteon in Canada only as a fully loaded AWD model. Why both automakers thought this was the way to in cost-conscious Canada is a mystery.

  • avatar

    This article is not worth much without also knowing the extent which reduced fleet affected the numbers. It’s been quite drastic.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, Altima was a decent volume model for the company I work for (several hundred per year, easily), and we got zero ’19’s, so I suspect a good chunk of the missing volume is fleet. That said, we got allocation on the ’20, so given that sales are still down YoY, that’s probably the true indicator it’s not connecting with the market.

  • avatar

    Atlantic Canadian here… I think the comment that the Rogue is hurting Altima sales may be true. Rogues are everywhere around here. They seem to be the most popular vehicle in this area – by a wide margin. They’re cheap, they’re a coveted CUV and they have AWD. Of course they also have a CVT but that isn’t a deal-breaker for most people.

    Around here though, people do seem to have drunk the Kool-Aid on AWD. Even though most of us live in urban areas with good snow removal. One thing that troubles me about AWD is the number of people who take the position that AWD means they don’t need winter tires. I’ll take a FWD car with good winter tires any day over an AWD on All-Seasons.

  • avatar

    May be Canadians are simply smarter? E.g. I own AWD Fusion in sunny California – can you beat that? And the only reason I have it (AWD) – it accelerates with all four wheels – it’s America baby, we are stupid.

  • avatar

    One request – when talking about the pricing of a Canadian cars in an article please specify clearly whether we are talking about U.S dollars or Canadian dollars. The author says that the car costs $30,040 but doesn’t specify which currency we’re talking about.

    $30,040 USD is $40,979 CAD.

    On the other hand,

    $30,040 CAD is $22,020 USD.

    I -guess- we’re talking $CAD since it’s an Altima but it sure would be nice to know….

  • avatar

    That’s amzing

  • avatar

    At over $28,000 before destination and other fees for the base S model that only comes with wheel covers, this is probably a non starter for most people. The top of the line Platinum is over $35,000 and you still only get the base engine, with no option for the turbo 4 or a V6. All three trim levels are overpriced.

  • avatar

    We need perspective here – Canadians do not buy midsized cars. Even the best seller – the Camry – only sells about 1,000 per month. (And probably 90% of those are taxis and rentals!). A 40% drop in Altima sales is only a few hundred cars.

    And can we stop with the poor Canadians buying only cheap cars? We buy more (overpriced) pickups than Americans on a per capital basis, so we’re just as willing to overspend on transportation as they are.

  • avatar

    In several Canadian provinces, winter tires are mandatory so this may be having an impact on AWD car sales or simply Nissan cars are not the best and people are not buying them for that reason without big discounts.

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