Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

NEW YORK – Laying claim to creating the first modern sports sedan, Nissan North America Inc.’s ’09 Maxima looks to retake its title.

“The 4-door sports car is back,” Al Castignetti, general manager of NNA’s Nissan Div., says at the new Maxima’s unveiling at the New York International Auto Show here.

After Nissan introduced the Maxima as the 4-door sports car, other auto makers followed with their versions, he says.

The auto maker puts Maxima back in contention with the SR version that offers performance features ranging from a 290-hp 3.5L V-6 engine to 19-in. wheels. It goes on sale this summer with two addition trim lines – the S and SV.

The new Maxima features an aggressive stance and muscular-looking shoulders. That boldness comes, in part, from designers reducing the overall length and widening the front and rear wheel track.

“We know our products need to appeal to buyers hearts and heads,” Castignetti says. “It’s a matter of taste,” he tells Ward’s, referring to consumers who want a sedan with an emotional punch. “They are very loyal buyers.”

The No.1 market for Maxima in the U.S. has always been the Northeast, he says. “So this auto show is the place to launch this car.”

Although the sedan segment is down, Castignetti expects ’09 Maxima sales to increase compared with the vehicle’s predecessor.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com