By on August 3, 2020

Image: Nissan

Nissan’s future will not see it become everything to everyone, and certainly not in all markets. The 2010s, and the market share-chasing, globe-straddling expansionism that characterized that decade’s car-buying orgy, are violently over.

Also soon to be over, apparently, is the Nissan Maxima’s gasoline-powered powertrain.

The large-ish Nissan sedan’s fate has been the subject of much speculation ever since the current-generation model appeared. With a standard CVT and sports-sedan marketing pitch in tow, the Maxima didn’t wow reviewers, leaving many wondering exactly what its purpose is.

And as Nissan’s fortunes fell along with the Maxima’s sales, some pointed to a new role for the passenger car range-topper. That speculation gained new heat in early 2019, after Nissan revealed its electric IMs sports sedan concept. Boasting power aplenty (dual motors, 483 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, and a claimed driving range of 380 miles), the concept hinted at a change at the top of Nissan’s car lineup.

Following Nissan’s sales and cash crunch, coupled with the secondary economic bite of the pandemic, Automotive News feels confident in claiming that the next-generation Maxima “should” appear in the form of the IMs. Whether or not the name Maxima is retained remains to be seen.

The same can be said for the appearance of customers. If people didn’t show up for the Maxima, would a ballsier sedan that ditches internal combustion make a difference? Can any non-premium passenger car, even if electric, rake it in? Tesla seems to prove that, yes, such vehicles can, though sales of the Model 3 and its brethren are juiced by Silicon Valley tech devotion and the futurist aura surrounding the company’s CEO.

If Nissan does replace the Maxima, it should appear in the second half of 2022.

The Maxima found 35,076 U.S. buyers in 2019, almost half of the volume the model enjoyed just two years prior. The bump in interest seen after the current generation’s debut quickly tapered off. Between 1994 and 2001, the Maxima reliably sold well over 100,000 units per year in the United States, with similar showings in 1986, 1989, and 1990.

[Image: Nissan]

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32 Comments on “New Life for the Shrinking Nissan Maxima?...”

  • avatar

    It’s not really the Maxima’s fault that 4-door sedans have just fallen out of favor, but it is Nissan’s fault for taking a wildly popular 4DSC and turning it into the bloated, contorted mess that it’s become

    I had a ’94 4DSC Maxima, one of the finest cars I ever owned, but after ’94 Maxima went into a slow decline that brings us to this inevitable end. RIP Maxima :(

    • 0 avatar

      A couple years ago we bought a 2003 Maxima as a second car. It has a lot of character, good power, excellent handling, clean handsome looks and many cool features our 2000 Lexus GS doesn’t have. Two annoyances are the huge turning radius (I drove a Tahoe that could turn inside the Maxima) and the impossible to read oil dipstick – if the car has been run in the past 24-hours. Sad to see a car that was a credible alternative to a BMW was left to whither.

  • avatar

    It’s so stupid to continue building a separate Maxima. The Altima does it all, is larger, and now has AWD.

    I wonder if IM means InfinitiMaxima? As the premium brand heads away from any enthusiast cred at all, and into the waiting arms of front-drive and CVT Nissan platforms.

    Anyway, the answer is to make a Maxima trim Altima and save a lot of trouble and money. The brand means little more than a rental car to most.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree they don’t need the overlap between the Altima and Maxima and I think that a Maxima range topping trim for the Altima would be the way to keep the name alive.

      It would also represent a return to its roots as it started as the top trim for the 810 and was called the 810 Maxima while they also sold an 810 Deluxe.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 1973 810 Datsun Coupe brand new way back when with automatic transmission. I had it for 6 months, the constant surging was the end for me. Never bot another Nissan product again.

    • 0 avatar

      The Maxima could be set up as the Stinger/Charger/Camry to Infinti’s G70/300/ES but sedan sales and Nissan’s reputation are so in the toilet at this point it likely isn’t even worth it.

      I think many manufacturers see sales of the Model 3 and think “ah yes, let’s make our sedans electric!”. But they aren’t Tesla and even Model 3 sales will probably start dropping once the Model Y becomes more available.

      • 0 avatar

        You know it’s funny, Nissan was at the *front* of the electric drivetrain party years ago with the LEAF.

        Did they make it into an exciting sedan/liftback, or sports car? No. They tread water and let it wither. Tesla came along, and even then they saw no reason to bother with further product.

        • 0 avatar

          Nissan and GM both had a chance to take early control of the EV market but they tripped over their d*cks.

          The Leaf and Bolt were/are both styled and positioned as economy hatchbacks while the 1G Leaf had the added benefit of severe battery degradation. Now Nissan has just about given up and GM is overcompensating with HUMMERs and Celestiqs. I don’t think either one believed Tesla could pull off the M3.

          • 0 avatar

            I think the common thread between Nissan and GM is that they completely misread the likely EV buyer. They probably figured their target buyers were the “greenies”, and they were wrong – folks like that think cars are basically the enemy of Mother Gaia, so asking them to spend upwards of forty grand on one was going to be a tough sell. At a $30,000-ish, Prius-like price point, they had a shot; at $40,000-ish, they didn’t.

            Meanwhile, Tesla rightly figured out that EVS were going to be expensive, which would turn off the “greenies,” so they made them cool-looking and fast, and sold them to yuppies instead. The rest is history.

            In the long run, though, GM has a good shot at selling the electric Hummer and Caddies if the product’s good – at a minimum, they’ll be better-sorted than Tesla products are, which might attract Tesla buyers who haven’t been all that happy with their tent-assembled Model 3s.

          • 0 avatar

            I am extremely bearish on GM’s high dollar EVs. I think they’ve gone too far in the other direction now. I expect they’ll sell in I-Pace volumes. Crumbs compared to what Telsa does and the Bolt will be a success in comparison.

      • 0 avatar

        Doubt many Stinger, Charger, G70 buyers would be interested in something like the Maxima.

        However, it could have been a cheaper and sportier alternative to the ES or a roomier alternative to the TLX.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. As I’ve written before, if they close the doors on Infiniti, the only logical way to move forward is to make the Maxima RWD/AWD and at least 350+ HP. Make it the 4DSC again. When the Altima blew up back in 2001 and added the Maxima’s V6, the writing was on the wall. How it has made it this long, I can only guess.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Nissan blew it for the Maxima when they first offered a V6 in the Altima (2002?) They put the same 3.5L in both, which just destroyed the market for the Maxima. If they had to do it over, they should have put the older 3.0L or 3.2L V6 in the Altimas, and kept the larger one for the Maxima. As already mentioned, there’s very little in a Maxima now that you can’t have with an Altima.

      • 0 avatar

        Not only did they screw up with the same engine in the two vehicles, Nissan sold the Altima SE-R, presenting it as essentially what the Maxima used to be: 4DSC.

        Nissan deserves its own Behind The Music-style mini-series on what happened to them. My goodness. They were once in conversation with Honda and Toyota. Now? Nissan is in conversation with Enterprise and Avis.

    • 0 avatar

      AWD isn’t available with the 2.0T motor, only the NA 2.5L.

  • avatar

    I feel that Maxima as a premium , electric only or hybrid would justify its continued existence.

    As nearly everyone has mentioned, what does Maxima do that Altima doesn’t already do and has for at least a few model years? Maxima is slightly larger and with a bit more content, not worth the premium price, even with discounts, to me or apparently few other people.

    Keep the Maxima name. MaximIM anyone?

  • avatar

    The Maxima seems pointless as-is in the Nissan lineup.

    If the next Infiniti G50/Skyline is going to be an electrified and luxed-up Altima as rumored, where will Maxima fit in?

  • avatar

    I’ve had a couple of nicely equipped Maximas as rentals. I would have considered snapping up a 12 or 18 month old used one. They depreciate like a rock for $20K to $24K a screaming deal. Just can’t get past that CVT and the known issues.

    Just like the Altima I think it gets more shade tossed at it then deserved. Both are unremarkable cars, but neither are as awful as the commentariat says they are.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I had a Maxima SV as a rental from Enterprise while my Challenger GT awd was still in the body shop. I failed to see how much better it was over a Altima considering they list for $36-38k. The VQ 3.5 was smooth and the interior was well appointed with supportive seats. However the lane departure warning sounded like a cheap novelty buzzer. The trunk due to its “coupe” styling was small and the radio, sat navigation was subpar compared to many other vehicles particularly the well regarded and easy to use FCA U-connect.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    The Maxima started it’s decline in 2005, when they dropped the manual transmission.
    A Maxima with a manual = a poor man’s BMW M5.
    A Maxima with an automatic = a Toyota Avalon.

    • 0 avatar

      A Toyota Avalon with less reliability and resale value.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I got my 2003 Maxima as a company car. Management said I could choose any car up to $34k,but it must seat four adults comfortably–which kinda left out Mustang.

      Mine was the SE model with Driver Preferred Package (nicer stereo, trunk lip spoiler, leather seats) and, most importantly, the 6-Speed Manual Trans!!

      I REALLY liked that car. It was very comfortable, had a great shifter (exception was the 2-3 throw which was a bit vague) and flat out RIPPED! I will never forget how, after a nice burnout during the test drive, my wife commented “You didn’t test-drive our minivan like that!” True, I didn’t!

      That job lasted until I had put about 40K miles on the car. The day he fired me, the boss asked me to please drive the car to Dealer X for them, because nobody in the office knew how to drive a manual.

    • 0 avatar

      The early 2000’s with Nissan cutting costs and anything resembling build quality didn’t help either. My brother foolishly bought a first year Titan which was around that time. That engine was awesome, the rest of the truck, not so much.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I will never forget how one day I discovered that the cruise control on my 2003 Maxima SE with manual transmission would NOT remain set at 93 mph, but was perfectly happy at 92. Obviously, the Japanese engineer (or regulator) felt 150 kph was fast enough on cruise.

  • avatar

    I think the Maxima exists soley as an upsell to an Altima intender whose money or credit extended upwards…probably costs the same to produce.

    Every CVT I’ve driven detracted from the car and engine. It may have uses, sport isn’t one. Toss me a real tranny, willya ?

    Companies hate the transmission in general. Expensive to make, a lot of parts (less in a CVT), and you can’t really charge more for them with options.

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