The rules for midcycle updates -- the automotive equivalent of a middle-age face-lift -- have changed.
Nissan, for example, took no chances in revising its two biggest-selling sedans for 2016: the Altima and Sentra. It freshened their designs to incorporate Nissan's new grille, added a suite of active safety systems and upgraded the suspensions and infotainment systems.
"We invested three to four times more than we typically would invest" in a midcycle update for the two cars, says Pierre Loing, Nissan product strategy chief. "The competition is getting stronger."
Nissan isn't alone. Ford, Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet are among other brands that have upped the enhancement ante years before scheduled overhauls.
A fresh example may play out at the Detroit auto show next week, when Ford touts midcycle changes on the Fusion.
Gone are the days when automakers could get away with a "freshening" -- a new nose, a new tail and some new wheels -- and leave major changes for the redesigns that typically come every six to eight years. These days, midcycle changes look more like major makeovers.
At the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Ford introduced the 2017 Escape with two new engines, new interior and its new Sync 3 infotainment system. And Toyota used its 2015 midcycle Camry as the launch pad for a corporate mission statement directly from Akio Toyoda, who wants more emotion in Toyota vehicles. Toyota spent roughly three times as much on the face-lift as it would have previously, estimates Monte Kaehr, the Camry's chief engineer, who declines to give a figure.
"The 2012 Camry was doing well in the marketplace," Kaehr said. "We did research with customers and intenders to see what they appreciated and what needed to be approved."
Consumer feedback convinced Toyota that the 2012 Camry "was very appealing from a rational standpoint, but we saw from the reviews, it was not as emotionally appealing," he said.