Nissan, which recently moved their American headquarters from Gardena, California, to Nashville, Tennessee, losing in that move as much as 60% or more of key employees in certain departments, came to NYC with a new Maxima and their own version of the Scion xB, called Cube. We first saw Cube exhibited in the USA at the Los Angeles Auto Show as many as four or five years ago. A crew of young, fresh-scrubbed, earnest and non-threatening Americans, each wearing a sporty Nissan shirt and carrying an electronic clipboard like FedEx delivery people use, were questioning other young Americans, who were examining the displayed Cube. Now it pops-up again, this time in NYC, in an all-electric EV-mode, though Nissan's PR material says it will be sold in the US beginning sometime in 2009, and with a gasoline engine, not as an EV. (Photos - 2009 Maxima).
Maxima's US sales were about 69,000 in 2006, dropping to 52,000 for 2007, a drop-off of nearly 25%. The car was old, showing and feeling its age. The "all-new" 2009 Maxima debuted at New York, which Nissan says was designed using some of the same methodologies used for their now-available-in-the-US GT-R, is not expected to join the sales ranks of Camry, Accord or even Chevy's new Malibu, but it definitely needs to succeed; if it doesn't do well, it will be chalked-up to Nissan moving their top American staffers from Los Angeles to Nashville, and whether that's true or false, that's the impression the public will have of the car. Sort of a "Japanese sedan designed and built by NASCAR fans", if you will.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima, which made its world debut at the 2008 New York International Auto Show, marks a return to the longtime Nissan flagship sedan’s roots as a commanding 4-door sports car – a vehicle that is unique in both appearance and driving feel, with renewed relevance for today’s active and ambitious sedan buyers. In other words, the Maxima is back (we here at Car Nut weren't aware that it had gone anywhere, other than "down" in sales numbers). The all-new 2009 Maxima will be offered as two well-equipped models, Maxima 3.5 S and Maxima 3.5 SV, and is scheduled to arrive at Nissan dealers nationwide in early summer 2008.
“Maxima has always enjoyed a certain ‘duality’ – a unique fusion of sedan practicality with the soul of a sports car,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. And we here at Car Nut say: Al is 100% right ... Especially when the discussion turns to, "Why has the Maxima never seriously challenged the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, or even, going back a few years, the Ford Taurus in its hey-dey?"
Exactly because of what Al says above: This "duality" thing. A big part of why people buy cars is because of what the cars mean, what they stand for, in a sense; and Maxima's "meaning" has always been confused. It can be a four-door family sedan. It can be a sports car. But it can't be both, no matter how hard Nissan has tried through the years. Ultimately, Nissan had developed a badly-flawed marketing direction for Maxima, and, rather than change it, they stubbornly stuck with it, forever destroying Maxima's chances of being seriously considered by Americans looking as that "family sedan" (Car Nut out).
High targets were established, including the goal of creating “the best performing front engine, front-wheel drive car in the world,” along with class-leading acceleration, braking, handling, workmanship and cockpit design. (Photo - Maxima interior).
NISSAN DENKI CUBE (Which translates into English as "Nissan Cube Cube", but since when did we Americans worry about what a car-name really meant in its original language?).
New York City got a lesson in what happens when geography meets geometry – specifically, when the world, which is round, mets the Nissan Cube, which is essentially square. The occasion was the world debut of the Nissan Denki (Japanese for “electric”) Cube Concept at the 2008 New York International Auto Show (more photos after the jump).
It also serves as a preview of Nissan’s future small car strategy for the North American market, which includes plans to sell a redesigned gasoline-powered, next-generation Cube at Nissan dealers in the United States and Canada beginning in 2009. (Now, how many possible Nissan-intenders do you think will go to Nissan dealers looking for the "Electric Cube, you know, the one you showed at the New York show"? If I were a Nissan dealer, I wouldn't be very happy with this campaign).
In creating the Denki Cube Concept, the designers started with a well-defined canvas, the current-generation Nissan Cube. The iconic Cube has always been the antithesis of traditional automotive style – square, minimalist, asymmetrical and humble – yet also warm, relaxing, practical and undeniably charming. To this solid foundation, the Denki Cube adds a new EV powertrain and unique exterior and interior treatments. (Don't you love the lengths a car-maker will go to make you like their car? Sounds like Denki Cube will do everything but fetch your slippers and newspaper, and send your mom a dozen roses on her birthday in the rest home).
The Denki Cube Concept’s exterior features fresh front and rear styling treatments, including a new “electric themed” front grille design with an AC power charging port, a radical “lightning” headlight design and new bumpers and turn signal lamps. In the rear, the signature Cube asymmetrical rear quarter area (with wraparound glass on one side) has been enhanced by a new bumper with hidden taillights. The roof sheet metal has been replaced with a full fixed glass panel that enhances the interior’s sense of wide-open space. The Denki Cube Concept exterior also features new door mirrors and unique 16-inch wheel covers. The finishing touch is provided by a special white pearl paint and graphics.
Inside, the Denki Cube Concept reflects the designers’ intention of creating a relaxing, moving social hub, like a favorite room in an owner’s house. Though the production Cube offers three rows of seating, the Denki Cube Concept offers only two rows and the wheelbase has been stretched 9.4 inches in order to better accommodate the lithium-ion battery cells. The newly designed front and second row seats are joined by a revised instrument panel with an IP-mounted shift button, a special steering wheel design and new door panel and cargo area trim.
The biggest transformation from production Cube to Denki Cube Concept is one that isn’t visible – the replacement of the standard 1.3-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor and laminated lithium-ion batteries located under the floor and seats. The laminated structure and unique material technology offer more power, energy and battery stability, as well as compact size and packaging flexibility, versus conventional cylindrical batteries.