第五代天籁于本月15日投入量产，预计将于今年夏天在美国发售。天籁在美国的销量已经超过了本田雅阁（Honda Accord），因此它有机会成为美国最受欢迎的轿车。现在日产公司希望天籁能在一年内超过目前销量排名第一的丰田凯美瑞（Toyota Camry）。
Nissan Motor Co. is betting its new Altima will be the ultimate weapon in its battle to top rival Toyota in the hard-fought market for family sedans.
The fifth generation Altima began U.S. production on Tuesday, May 15 and goes on sale in U.S. dealerships this summer. It has a shot at becoming the most popular sedan in the U.S., having already passed Honda's Accord in sales. Now the company hopes it will out-sell Toyota's No. 1 Camry within a year.
Nissan, long renowned for excellent engineering, is working hard to overcome a legacy of uninspired marketing that hasn't made much of a dent in Toyota's and Honda's sales. Nissan long made well-regarded vehicles that had difficulty reaching the front ranks of consumer awareness.
Not that Nissan hasn't sold a lot of Altimas. The first generation rolled off the line in 1992 and, according to the company, Nissan has sold some 4.4 million units since. "[But the] Altima has relied heavily on sales to fleets, rather than retail," says Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Edmunds.com, an automotive website. That made gaining a reputation with retail customers difficult. "It's been hard for companies like Nissan and Mazda to break through" the marketing presence of Honda and Toyota, she adds.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who spoke at Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant on Tuesday said "if I worked at a certain place in Georgetown, Kentucky I would be nervous about holding on to the No. 1 title." Haslam, who was invited to help inaugurate production of the new vehicle, was referring to the site of the Toyota plant where the Camry is assembled.
In the first four months of 2012, Nissan sold 112,599 Altimas, almost 30% more than the same period last year. By comparison, Honda sold 96,517 Accords, Toyota sold 142,225 Camrys, Chevrolet sold 80,456 Malibus and Ford sold 85,559 Fusions during the same period.
Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan operations in the Americas, credited improvement in Nissan's worldwide manufacturing system following the crisis of 1999. At that time French automaker Renault bought a stake and reorganized the company. The system allows Nissan to optimize production at its assembly plants, which are flexible enough to build five or six different models, while keeping quality high and spreading best practices to all its plants. "The building blocks were always there," says Krueger. "It took the crisis to elevate the system." What about the Altima's chances of passing the Camry? "We didn't make all these improvements to be No. 2," he says.