SMYRNA, TN – Nissan executives expect to keep the new-for-’13 Altima sedan’s U.S. fleet sales light until the end of the year, when the auto maker’s orders from rental companies and commercial customers typically ratchet back up.

“Demand from fleet for us is in the winter months – January, February and March – and I would expect that pattern would remain similar,” Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan Americas tells WardsAuto shortly after Job One for the new Altima here.

The fifth-generation Altima begins arriving at dealers June 26, and Nissan wants the car to unseat the Toyota Camry as the industry’s best-selling midsize passenger car. Last year, the Altima’s 268,981 deliveries ranked second to the Camry’s 308,510 units, according to WardsAuto data.

Fleet customers can boost market share and sales, areas where Nissan has bold expectations for the new Altima. But fleet transactions tend to be less profitable and, if overdone, risk damaging consumer perception of a nameplate.

Altima sales to fleet customers traditionally account for about 20% of its mix, the auto maker has said previously, and most of those go to corporations rather than rental companies. Many Asian and American competitors run at a much higher clip, with some pushing to 40% of total sales.

Nissan also wants to ratchet up its total U.S. share to 10% in the next few years, from 8.2% in 2011. Krueger says discounting will not be part of the auto maker’s growth strategy.

Third-party estimates show incentives rising in the midsize-car segment, led by such makes as the Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu, as auto makers sell down inventory ahead of model redesigns.

“I’m willing to build demand by putting value out in the marketplace, but I’m not going to cut and trim profit margins to beat our competitors,” Krueger says. “We have no plans to start piling incentives on.”

He also says a redesign of the Titan fullsize pickup truck remains alive, despite the exit last year of former Nissan product-planning chief Larry Dominique. Dominique was the father of the Titan, launched in 2003 and tasked with taking a chunk out of the Detroit Three’s dominance of the segment.

But Titan sales have been anything but Herculean, peaking in 2005 at 86,945 units for a 3.5% share of the large-pickup segment, WardsAuto data shows. That same year, the Ford F-Series accounted for 854,878 deliveries and a 34.4% share.

Last year, Titan sales totaled 21,994 units for a 1.5% share.

Dominique had been holding out hope a joint development with Chrysler of the Ram pickup would strengthen the Titan’s position, but the auto maker’s 2009 bankruptcy scuttled the deal. He also suggested as recently as last year the new Titan would come with a powerful, fuel-efficient V-6 engine.

Without providing a timetable, Krueger says that the new Titan continues to move through Nissan’s product development. “It is still progressing through our contract process.”

jamend@wardsauto.com