Nissan Begins New Altima Coupe Production

by : RyanThomas

Following the launch of the all-new Altima and its hybrid variant, production started last Monday on the new coupe version which is a sportier version of Nissan's best-selling model that was primarily designed to draw in new customers to their abode.

The Japanese automaker celebrated the Altima's third launch in seven months at its Smyrna plant which is located just 20 miles south of its relocated headquarters in Nashville. Dubbed as "true coupe," the Altima comes as a two-door model that has a shorter wheelbase and a lower profile than its four-door counterpart.

The 2008 Nissan Altima coupe is set for release on the 25th of this month. The coupe, which was officially launched at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, is engineered to compete against the Toyota Camry Solara, Honda Accord coupe and the Pontiac G6 coupe. The coupe is equipped with reliable , and a sport suspension that is mated to two engine choices - the updated VQ35DE, a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 or the QR25DE, a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder. Also, the driver-centered interior offers a 6.5-inch traffic navigation screen, a rearview monitor, as well as a keyless entry and ignition and hands-free phone system.

"There's a lot of coupes on the market, some of which are merely shorter versions of their sedan counterparts, but we didn't want to do that," said John Curl, the regional product manager for Nissan. "It has the proportions of a coupe and not just a 2-door sedan."

Karl Brauer, the editor in chief of, said that the coupe's almost completely new body panels add sophisticated styling that differentiates it from the sedan. "My first impression was that it looked very upscale," Brauer said. "It will cost you considerably less than a G35 and sends a lot of the same messages."

The Nissan Altima coupe will be priced at $20,490. Its price is far below the company's most comparable model, the Infiniti G35 luxury coupe, and the Z sports car. "In less than a month, we've had a thousand orders, which is fantastic," said Michelle Erwin, a senior manager in marketing. Japan's No. 3 automaker needs the new coupe, along with the Altima hybrid, to compete with rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. as well as to use it to boost dragging profits. "We're optimistic that we're going to get a lot new owners because we've not had a vehicle in this segment at this price range before," Erwin said.

With a broad base of existing Altima customers, Brauer said a coupe was the next logical step to bring in new buyers - especially when sales are down. Nissan marked its first drop in annual profit in seven years in the January-March quarter, the first such setback under the leadership of Carlos Ghosn, who salvaged the Japanese automaker from collapse. "A lot of people would readily admit that they've slid," Brauer said. "They've stagnated in terms of product and had some duds in terms of sales." The third largest Japanese automaker was in a product lull for over a year before the launch of the new sedan in September.

"Sales for the Altima have been strong since the introduction of the new sedan model" in September, said Catherine Madden, an automotive analyst with Boston-based Global Insight. "Unfortunately other products have lagged."

Auto analysts expect Altima's styling to do well against models already on the market, like the Toyota Camry Solara and the Mitsubishi Eclipse. "Nissan has distinguished itself with the consumer and many of their designs have been ahead of other Japanese companies," Madden said. "We're expecting strong sales for that product."

Honda also plans to roll out a coupe for the 2008 model year. The production could put a cramp in Nissan's first-year sales. "That's where you're going to see a pretty interesting divide" among consumers, Brauer noted.