With sales of the all-new Maxima off to a good start, Nissan is weighing options to broaden the sports sedan’s appeal, a senior program executive told TheDetroitBureau.com.
While a coupe or some alternative body style isn’t in the works, Nissan is looking at ways to put even more emphasis on the sport side of the sedan, and one possibility getting serious consideration would be to add the Maxima to the growing list of products getting the NISMO treatment.
“We’re trying to gauge reaction to the car,” said 2016 Nissan Maxima product planner Vishnu Jayamohan, who confided that “We have our NISMO brand which would be a great outlet for this car.”
Short for Nissan Motorsport International, Nissan created the performance unit in 1984, combining two separate motorsport operations. Initially, NISMO focused on racing, but in recent years the sub-brand has become a mainstream answer to such luxury performance units as BMW’s M and Mercedes-AMG. It now offers a small but expanding line-up of specially tuned Nissan products, including the GT-R sports car and the second-generation NISMO-tuned Nissan Juke unveiled earlier this month.
(Click Here to check out the new, 600-hp Juke 2.0)
Nissan has been emphasizing performance and handling with the latest-generation Maxima that went on sale barely a month ago. Among the various trim levels of the sedan it offers the sporty SR. But that is more of a poseur model, with sport-appearance trim but no actual change in power.
A NISMO Maxima would deliver some unspecified bump up in horsepower, among other things, and likely would also boast improve handling and even sportier exterior and interior trim.
(Nissan hints at big plans for NISMO at Chicago Auto Show. Click Here for more.)
Nissan officials have several times promised to expand the line-up of NISMO models in recent years. Nonetheless, a final commitment hasn’t been made to giving the 2016 Nissan Maxima that performance treatment, Jayamohan cautioned.
“There’s a fit, but do the numbers pencil,” he said during an interview in Detroit.
For one thing, there’s the question of sales volumes. So far, the 2016 Maxima appears to be off to a good start, with demand reaching about 4,000 last month – well ahead of the 3,500 sold in June 2014 – despite the fact that production of the new model is just being ramped up. Historically, Maxima has generated about 60,000 sales annually, but it’s too early to confirm that pace can be maintained, especially at a time when sedans, on the whole, have been losing some momentum.
The good news for Nissan is that the new Maxima seems to be drawing in some of the same type of buyers who might otherwise be opting for smaller European sport sedans, such as a BMW 3-Series, noted Jayamohan.
Even if the new Maxima, on the whole, does well, Nissan wants to be sure there would be a market for a true sport version. The maker expects the Maxima SR model to account for about 20 to 25% of the sedan’s overall sales.
Then there’s the even tougher issue of figuring out how to power a NISMO Maxima. It would be difficult to justify a new engine, and it remains to be seen if the current 3.5-liter V-6 could be beefed up. An alternative would be to borrow the 3.7-liter V-6 used by sibling brand Infiniti, but Jaymohan cautioned that this would require extensive engineering work that might not, as he put it, “pencil.”
That said, Nissan clearly sees the benefit of adding to its sportiest product line and may just find a way to put the right formula down on paper.
(For more on the new 2016 Nissan Maxima, Click Here.)