NASHVILLE – Nissan Motor Co.'s Nissan division will stop selling its only gas-electric hybrid model, the Altima Hybrid, at the end of the 2011 model year.
But the automaker is not saying whether it is merely clearing the pipeline for a future version of the model that could sell in higher volumes.
Since its introduction in early 2007, sales of the Altima Hybrid have totaled about 35,000 units.
The existing model relies on a hybrid drive system supplied by rival Toyota Motor Corp. The model is only sold in seven states that adopted California's more stringent emission guidelines.
But since adopting Toyota's hybrid technology, Nissan Motor Co. has developed its own in-house hybrid drive. The first version of that new lithium-ion battery-based technology was recently introduced in the U.S. market on the luxury-class Infiniti M sedan, as the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid.
"We've launched our Nissan design hybrid in the M," said Mark Perry, director of product planning at Nissan North America. He said that technology will spread through other lines. "We're going to cascade it through where it makes sense."
Nissan, under CEO Carlos Ghosn, hopes to become a leading seller of electric vehicles.
"We're going heavily into electric vehicles right now," Nissan product spokesman John Schilling said, referring to the brand's marketing emphasis on the all-electric Leaf sedan. "But we are moving into other power technologies for the future, including hybrid."
The electric Leaf is also powered by a lithium-ion battery. And Nissan is currently investing $1.6 billion to build a lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn., where it also plans to assemble the Leaf starting in late 2012.
The plant will have the capacity to produce 200,000 battery modules a year – 50,000 a year more than its capacity for Leaf production.
The automaker already builds the Altima in Smyrna, and until now, produced the Altima hybrid there.