Nissan Australia CEO and MD Dan Thompson has revealed plans for the next Altima – currently a US-built model sold mostly in NAFTA markets – to be offered ‘down under’, according to GoAutoNews. This means that the car will be built for the first time with right-hand drive, making it potentially a global model.

A spokeswoman for Nissan Motor GB said the company was “highly unlikely” to want the car for the UK market. The British D segment – in which Nissan’s last Primera line was not a success – is now dominated by the Vauxhall Insignia but competition is hotting up with Hyundai having surprised many earlier in 2011 when it launched the new i40. Affiliate KIA  is about to push its way in with the Optima while Toyota is hoping that its revised Avensis will help it claw back market share in what is a sizeable but fleet-driven segment. Nissan chose to withdraw from the European D-class when the third generation, UK-built Primera came to the end of its life cycle in October 2006.

The puzzle over where the Aussies will source their fifth generation car from is interesting: the current car is made only in the US, at Smyrna, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi. Thailand or Indonesia might make the most sense – the Australian market Micra has just been switched out of the Thai plant and into Cikampek in West Java and Nissan Australia gets other models such as the popular larger Maxima from Thailand helped by a free trade agreement. Renault Samsung’s vastly underutilised Busan plant is another possibility, especially as it already makes RHD Alliance platform cars for many markets.

The new Altima is due to be launched in North America during 2012. Its styling is expected to have been influenced by the Ellure concept which debuted at the Los Angeles show in November 2010.

Author: Glenn Brooks