Nissan Division is pinning high hopes on its all-new Sentra compact sedan.
Nissan wants to nearly double Sentra sales this year to 115,000 units, up from 63,134 units in 1999. The company also wants the entry-level car to help it recapture the youth market.
'We've billed it as `the all-new compact' with the word `compact' crossed out,' said Jerry Hirshberg, president of Nissan Design International Inc.
The new Sentra is heftier and more upscale-looking than its predecessor. The car has grown by 6.5 inches in overall length, to 177.5 inches. The new model's width has grown by 0.8 inches, to 67.3 inches. And at 55.6 inches in height, it's also 1.1 inches taller. While the wheelbase remains at 99.8 inches, interior and trunk space has been increased.
The styling gambit apparently has worked. In early product clinics, Nissan says, target consumers placed the car's value $1,000 above Nissan's price point.
Powertrain improvements are led by an all-new, 1.8-liter, double overhead camshaft engine and a tweaked 2.0-liter dohc. The 1.8 engine delivers 126 hp and 129 pounds-feet of torque, while the all-aluminum 2.0-liter engine produces 145 hp and 136 pounds-feet of torque.
Jed Connelly, Nissan Division general manager, said the 'substantial savings' realized from Sentra's global platform approach have been reinvested in the car.
The car is built at Nissan's Aguascalientes plant in Mexico. It arrives in showrooms by the end of February. Pricing will be 'aggressive' and below its predecessor, Connelly said.
To win back younger buyers, Nissan is rolling out a new youth-focused marketing campaign that heavily leans on Internet activity and youth-oriented publications. Said Connelly: 'This is a car people can take seriously.'