"When I look at this car, I'm proudest of the fact that it's here at all," says Takeshi Yamaguchi, who was Nissan North America's vice president for vehicle engineering and vehicle program management for the project. "And on top of that, I'm proud of that fact that we took the Maxima beyond where it was, instead of taking it backward."
Toning down the Maxima was another possibility before Nissan Motor Corp. CEO Carlos Ghosn greenlighted the project in early 2012.
Those were cloudy days for auto product planners. The industry was clawing back from recession. High fuel prices were spooking consumers, and the clearest buying trends were toward compacts with small engines. Manufacturers were shifting resources to compact, subcompact and even minicars. Nissan was introducing its electric Leaf and declaring itself a green automaker.
"A lot of people assume it was a forgone conclusion that, of course we will continue with another Maxima," says Pierre Loing, vice president of North American product planning. "But frankly, the forgone conclusion at that moment was that there would not be another Maxima."
Loing stepped into his job in January 2012. His first task was to make a case for another Maxima -- a nameplate that sold almost entirely in the United States from a car company that was focused on making its global platforms more cost efficient.
But there were big reasons to fight for it, Loing says.
The Maxima, introduced in 1981, is Nissan's longest-selling nameplate in the United States, Loing says. (The current Z car has older roots, but the Z nameplate was discontinued for several years.) As a result, the Maxima has a multigenerational fan base. The car has better name recognition than the Nissan brand itself, he says.