Nissan announced it is ending production of the Nissan Maxima sedan in mid-2023. The end of Maxima production is the result of Nissan’s Ambition 2030 plan, which prioritizes electric vehicles.
The company expects that by 2030, 40% of its output will be entirely electric. That would include two brand-new, all-electric vehicles slated for production at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly facility, which the company already revealed. One is planned to arrive as a Nissan, the other as an Infiniti. So it’s possible the Maxima name could be revived as an EV nameplate.
The company said to “stay tuned for future Nissan Maxima news as we empower journeys through exciting vehicles and tech innovation.”
Like other full-size sedans, the Maxima has undergone a precipitous sales slide. In the first six months of 2022, Nissan sold 3,753 units in the first half of 2022, down 62.4% from the 9,965 units it sold in the first six months of 2021, and down 94% from the 62,670 units Nissan produced in 2016.
An iconic Nissan nameplate
The Maxima’s four-plus decade history started in 1980, when the rear-wheel-drive 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima by Nissan appeared powered by the 240Z’s inline 6-cylinder engine and 5-speed manual that produced 120 horsepower in the 2,815-pound sedan.
Competing against the Toyota Cressida at the time, Nissan would drop the 810 moniker in 1982, and the Datsun brand two years later. Known as the Bluebird in Japan, the 810 Maxima was offered as a sedan or station wagon.
It was redesigned with front-wheel drive for 1985, by which point it was competing against the Toyota Camry, which had been introduced the year before. Boasting a boxy design and a velour interior, its power once more came from a Z-derived engine, now a 3.0-liter V-6. Both sedan and wagon models were offered.
Redesigned for 1989, the third-generation was marketed by Nissan as a four-door sports car. To emphasize the fact, the automaker plastered 4DSC stickers on the car. But it was more than a marketing gimmick, as the Maxima now had that reputation, thanks to its Z-derived a 160-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 and its independent rear suspension.
The Maxima grew in size when redesigned for 1995 while gaining 30 hp but saw its independent rear suspension replaced with a torsion beam. But old reputations die hard, and it garnered MotorTrend’s Import Car of the Year award as well as being named one of Car and Driver’s 10 Best.
The fifth-generation followed in 2000, benefitting from Nissan’s highly regarded VQ35 V-6 and a boost to 255 hp from 222 hp in 2002. But whereas the Maxima was once engineered toward enthusiasts, it now had a solitary SE trim aimed at enthusiast drivers as styling became less distinctive than ever.
Muddling the Maxima’s image
The Maxima was developed during troubled time. Nissan had undergone three consecutive years of losses and was heavily in debt. Renault rescued the automaker in 1999, acquiring a majority stake in Nissan, with Carlos Ghosn, nicknamed “Le Cost Killer,” enacting increased sales volume targets.
By this time, the Maxima’s image as four-door sports car is an increasingly distant memory, as volume, not product image, becomes Ghosn’s primary focus.
Still, the faithful inside Nissan managed to field a memorable Maxima for 2004, with an increased luxury quotient and a new multi-link rear suspension adapted from the Japanese-market Nissan Skyline sports car. But the enthusiast fire soon dimmed with the introduction of a continuously variable automatic transmission in 2007 and the 5-speed manual gearbox axed.
Redesigned two years later, styling became a bit more generic, and creature comforts became its calling card. Power was now rated at 290 hp.
The Maxima’s current generation debuted in 2015, wearing Nissan’s new design motif featuring their V-Motion grille and floating roof C-Pillar design, a look that has since been widely copied. Power came courtesy of a 300-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a host of driver-assistance safety systems. It was facelifted in 2019.
A diminishing market
In its final decade, the Nissan Maxima was merely Nissan’s flagship sedan, a slightly larger alternative to the far more popular, and cheaper, Nissan Altima. Now battling the far more popular Toyota Avalon, the Maxima’s lack of a once-clear image saw it fight a losing battle as sales in the full-size car class disappeared along with many nameplates, including the Hyundai Azera (2017), Buick LaCrosse (2019), Ford Taurus (2019), Chevrolet Impala (2020) and Kia Cadenza (2020).
Like the Maxima, the Avalon will soon disappear, giving way to the Toyota Crown, a vehicle with a design that’s an amalgamation of crossover-like height and slick sedan styling. Its lone competitors, the aging Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, are the last remnants of a once quintessentially American market segment.