Nissan made a little history in March when its mid-sized Altima beat the rival Toyota Camry in U.S. monthly sales for the first time. The Camry has long been America's top-selling car, but the Altima topped it by 825 units in March.
But don't expect a long-term trend here. The reason: Nissan doesn't have the factory capacity to go head-to-head. Toyota has the manufacturing muscle to build 400,000 Camrys a year in the United States; Nissan does not.
Nissan has two assembly lines building the Altima -- in Smyrna, Tenn., and Canton, Miss. Combined, the plants can turn out about 300,000 Altimas a year, or about 25,000 a month.
In March, with built-up inventories and a good tailwind from Nissan's marketing, dealers moved 32,289 Altimas. But Toyota managed to top 40,000 units in some months of 2007 and 2008, before the recession.