Nissan sedan concept teases racier Maxima

Nissan's Sport Sedan Concept unveiled Monday by Andy Palmer, executive vice president of Nissan, at the Detroit auto show. For all intents and purposes, it is the next Maxima, which is due out in late 2015. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

UPDATED: 1/13/14 7:08 pm ET

DETROIT -- Nissan Motor Corp. says its newly unveiled Sport Sedan Concept shows how the company would produce a racier large sedan for the masses.

The concept unveiled today at the Detroit auto show, for all intents and purposes, is the next Maxima, which is due out in late 2015.

But Nissan is not calling it by that name.

Nissan global design chief Shiro Nakamura said the four-door concept uses sports car proportions and takes "sports car principles" in a sedan to the next level.

The concept features a low, back-sloping roof and a concealed B-pillar. The front end displays a sharp V-shaped grille and boomerang-shaped headlights.

The aggressive design should end sporadic speculation that the Maxima could be dropped from Nissan's lineup, now that the mid-sized Altima sedan has grown larger and more powerful.

The U.S. market for large sedans -- while steadily shrinking over time -- has received a new wave of product and investment with the introduction of a revamped Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera and the new Kia Cadenza.

Fred Diaz, Nissan Division's senior vice president of sales, marketing, parts and service, without confirming that the auto show concept car is intended as the Maxima, said the Maxima is very much alive and well.

"The Maxima continues to be one of our core vehicles, and we sold a lot of them in November and December," he said.

"It's a little old. It's at the end of its cycle," he said. "But when we're ready to introduce a future Maxima, we'll address it with new interior design and new exterior styling cues that will blow the world away."

He said the Sport Sedan Concept "says a lot about where Nissan is going in the future with the design of our vehicles, the sportiness of future vehicles and what we're going to do with our sedans."

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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