On Tuesday, May 15, 2012 Nissan North America began production of the redesigned 2013 Altima sedan at its Smyrna, Tennessee production facilities.
With the new Altima, Nissan has set its sights on dethroning the Toyota Camry as the best-selling family sedan.
Speaking with reporters at the Smyrna plant, Nissan Americas vice chairman Bill Krueger said, “We didn’t put all of the investment into this product and put in all the features with an expectation to be No. 2. Ultimately the consumer’s going to vote with their purchase whether or not we sell more than anyone else.”
In the wake of the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, the Altima surpassed the Honda Accord as the second-best selling family sedan.
Nissan, however, is not alone in its quest for the top spot in the mid-sized sedan segment. Honda hopes to recapture the No. 2 position and the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata are also in the hunt.
According to Krueger, Nissan is not willing to raise its incentives on the Altima in order to be more competitive.
“I’m willing to build demand by putting value out in the market place,” said Krueger, “but I’m not willing to cut and trim profit margin to try and beat a number that one of our competitors is doing. We don’t have any intention of piling incentives on it to try to chase a number.”
Nissan plans to increase production capacity at the Smyrna factory and at its Canton, Mississippi facilities. At the Smyrna plant, Nissan plans to add 1,000 new workers and to add a third shift later this year. The company also hopes to increase production at the Canton plant by 20 percent.
Even with the proposed increases in production, both Toyota and Honda have ample capacity to out-produce Nissan if the market demand is there to support it.
Last March, Nissan sold 41,000 Altimas. If demand remains constant at that level, Nissan expects to sell 500,000 Altimas by year’s end. Even though production of the 2013 model has begun at the Smyrna plant, Nissan plans to continue making 2012 models at the Canton plant in order to satisfy demand for the current-year model.
In addition to the Altima, the Smyrna plant will also begin making Leaf all-electric vehicles this coming December.