Just 205 car sales separated the nation's best-selling car, the Toyota Camry, from the year's unexpected challenger, the Nissan Altima, last month.
It is as close as Nissan has ever come to America's No. 1 car crown, a position that has been dominated seemingly forever by the Camry, or the Honda Accord, or the old Ford Taurus. In past years, the Altima has placed farther down the list.
The next 10 or so days will determine whether October 2011 was simply an anomalous narrow miss for the Altima. Why? Because the Altima has arrived at its striking-distance position in part through the sweat and toil of Nissan's U.S. sales management, but also thanks to unusual circumstance: The March earthquake in Japan brought down Toyota's Camry output while Nissan was able to quickly restore production.
The result? October Camry sales – 22,043. October Altima sales – 21,838. As they say in horse racing, a nose.