The next 18 to 24 months will bring a major renewal of Nissan Division's lineup.
In the coming weeks, the brand will see four new products released or revealed: the Juke crossover, electric Leaf sedan, redesigned Quest minivan and an ambitious but perhaps polarizing convertible Murano crossover.
Late next year, Nissan will begin showing a string of restyled high-volume car lines, including the Altima and Versa.
Leaf: One of the most talked-about new products in Nissan Motor Co.'s history will debut in five U.S. markets in December. The battery-powered Leaf will roll out to most U.S. markets during the first half of 2011, depending on the readiness of the consumer and local government infrastructure to handle battery charging.
The Leaf is a five-passenger sedan, close in dimensions to the Altima. The car's lithium ion battery pack and 80-kilowatt electric motor promise up to 100 miles per full charge. Nissan dealers are requiring customers to install home charging units before arranging for delivery.
Nissan is already alluding to future Leaf changes. The first model will be imported. The car goes into production in Tennessee in late 2012 along with locally made battery packs that Nissan is referring to as "next-generation batteries."
Versa: A redesign is planned for the 2013 model year, when the Versa, built in Mexico, becomes part of a new global V small-car platform. That flexible platform also yields the subcompact Micra, not slated for U.S. sale, and other models.
The platform changes do not give any indication of how the next-generation Versa will look or perform. But the V platform is intended to bring down costs and create more opportunity for model variations.
Sentra: No major changes are planned for next year.
Cube: The Cube continues largely unchanged for the next several years.
Altima: Nissan is scheduled to re-engineer the Altima for the 2013 model year with an eye toward both horsepower and fuel economy gains. The Altima is Nissan's biggest-volume product.
The Altima hybrid, which has been limited in distribution to nine states, will be changed significantly for the 2013 model year. The model currently relies on a nickel-metal hydride battery electrical system supplied by competitor Toyota Motor Corp. But Nissan has been developing an in-house hybrid system using a lithium ion battery -- the technology that also powers the Leaf. The automaker's first hybrid car using its in-house system will be an Infiniti M, which bows in 2011.
Maxima: The Maxima is due for a freshening for the 2012 model year.
370Z: The Z will remain virtually unchanged for the 2011 model year. A freshening will occur in the 2012 model year, with minor changes to the Roadster Z a year later.
GT-R: Nissan has reduced GT-R options to a single, fully equipped model for the 2011 model: the GT-R Premium. The car is due for a freshening for the 2012 model year. Spy photos indicate the addition of a rear spoiler and new grille to go with a boost in the horsepower of its 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-6.
Rogue: The crossover receives a freshening for the 2011 model year, with new grille, fascias, side molding, instrument panel and interior materials and features.
Juke: A small crossover built on Nissan's global B platform -- the Juke Sport Cross -- is new for the 2011 model year and will reach dealer showrooms next month. Standard on the car is Nissan's first U.S. application of a 1.6-liter, direct-injection gasoline turbo engine -- a 16-valve, four-cylinder powerplant that puts out 188 hp and 177 pounds-feet of torque.
Originally, the Juke was planned for Europe only. The styling is aggressively sporty, with bulging rear curves, a high beltline and sloping roof. It features standard 17-inch wheels and hidden rear door handles. The price starts at $19,710, including shipping.
Murano: The 2011 Murano receives a freshening, including new front grille, bumper and taillights.
Murano CrossCabriolet: The mid-sized Murano CrossCabriolet, a new offering for the 2011 model year, is certain to stand out in the segment as a drop-top crossover. The convertible will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November and go on sale early next year.
Brian Carolin, head of sales and marketing for Nissan North America, says the vehicle is not intended as a volume product but more of a brand attention-getter, demonstrating Nissan's willingness to introduce innovative design ideas.
Xterra: For the 2011 model year, the Xterra SE model has been eliminated and the Off-Road model renamed the Xterra PRO-4X. That model, along with the X and S packages, continues largely unchanged.
Despite a waning market for truck-based SUVs in general, Nissan intends to continue with its popular, decade-old Xterra in future years. Until this year, the company had planned to discontinue the two-wheel-drive version, but the model will survive.
Pathfinder, Armada: Rampant speculation aside, Nissan says it has no intention of discontinuing either of its large SUVs: the mainly V-6-powered, mid-sized Pathfinder or the full-sized V-8 Armada. Both trucks are based on the Titan's F-Alpha platform, and both will be redesigned as part of the new-generation Titan project for the 2013 model year or a year later.
Frontier: Changes for the 2011 model year are limited to content and price options. The truck is slated to be restyled for the 2012 model year.
Titan: Nissan still has not determined in what model year its redesigned, full-sized Titan pickup will appear, but it is likely to occur after the 2012 model year.
The automaker found itself scrambling last year when Chrysler Group backed out of a plan to produce the Titan in Mexico starting in 2011, basing the truck on the Dodge Ram. That setback sent Nissan designers, engineers and planners back to their CAD/CAMs to create a new generation to be produced at Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant.
Engine options on the Titan will be a key issue, since the current product offers only a 5.6-liter V-8. Nissan is considering adding a diesel engine as well as other V-8 variations.