Nissan North America plans to begin selling its redesigned Altima sedan this week online, almost three months before the car arrives in showrooms.
To entice customers into advance orders, Nissan will throw in scheduled maintenance for three years or 45,000 miles, says Al Castignetti, Nissan's vice president of sales and marketing.
Castignetti and other Nissan executives say they believe the marketing plan will help sell 25,000 new Altimas before the car officially goes on sale in late June. That is a little more than one month's worth of sales at the Altima's current volume.
Combined U.S. sales of the Altima sedan and coupe have climbed 39 percent this year through March to 96,360 units, making it the nation's second-best-selling car beyond the Toyota Camry.
Traditionally, big-selling vehicles suffer a dip in volume during a new-model launch as factories start new-model production and automakers build inventories.
Castignetti says Nissan was emboldened to attempt the advance sale by its experience selling the electric Leaf over the past year.
The Leaf, which has limited worldwide availability, has been sold through U.S. retailers through an Internet reservation process in which customers make a deposit on a car.
Castignetti says the advance sales will help the company's factories in Smyrna, Tenn., and Canton, Miss., plan the Altima ramp-up more accurately over the next several weeks. Having thousands of advance orders will allow factory planners to know which colors and trim packages to build.
He hopes the advance-sale initiative will help give Nissan a seamless transition from the current Altima to the new one. Nissan anticipates it will take until July 1 to sell off its inventory of current models.
"We're looking to not miss a beat on this launch," Castignettis says. "It's our bread and butter."
Under the plan, buyers will pay $49 to order the vehicle. The fee then is deducted from the transaction price when the buyer takes delivery.
Nissan will begin promoting the plan this week, giving customers until June 25 to make a reservation. The customers must go into a Nissan dealership before July 9 to complete the transaction.