TRAVERSE CITY, MI – While Nissan Altima sales fell 13.2% last month on a daily-selling-rate basis, Nissan says it won’t pile on incentives to spark demand for its highest-volume model.

To the contrary, the automaker is pulling back on spiffs for the car, says a top official.

“Last month, we decreased our incentives on Altima $123, while the segment went up (by) $243,” Fred Diaz, senior vice president-sales and marketing and operations for Nissan in the U.S., tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of the Management Briefing Seminars, where he spoke Wednesday.

Nissan, with an eye toward “profitable growth,” is trying to be more disciplined and not use incentives in a reactionary fashion to meet dealer sales quotas or match competitors dollar for dollar.

“On incentives, you’ve got the (Hyundai) Sonata selling down, the (Toyota) Camry selling down in preparation for their new versions that are launching,” Diaz says of the Altima’s midsize competition. “But we held the line, knowing they were going to do that.”

The new-generation ’15 Sonata is arriving at U.S. Hyundai dealers now, while Toyota will launch a heavily refreshed Camry this fall. The Altima has been on sale in its current form since spring 2012.

In his speech here, Diaz describes competition in the midsize-sedan segment in the U.S., traditionally the highest-volume vehicle group in the country, as “relentless.”

“Instead of chasing them and following with the same level of incentives, we held our own. In fact, we not only held our own, we lowered our incentives and came out with very respectable sales last month,” he says.

The Altima’s 26,679-unit July performance made it the No.3 best-selling midsize car in the U.S. for the month, behind the Camry and Honda Accord. In February, the Altima beat out both those cars for the top spot in monthly sales in the segment.

Through July, Altima is outperforming the segment, with volume up 2.9% to 203,107 units, while WardsAuto’s Middle Car group is down 1.0% to 1.836 million as more Americans flock to CUVs.

Diaz says the Camry and Accord still are cross-shopped most often by Altima buyers, but he keeps his eye on the entire group.

“Anyone in the segment, even the domestics (such as) the new Chrysler 200, is a formidable competitor we have to go after,” he says of the vehicle built by his former employer.

Diaz also says Nissan has shifted its marketing message on the Leaf electric vehicle from one of quelling range anxiety to promoting “range confidence.”

“We’ve essentially changed our whole education and website process (for the consumer) to not be scared” of driving an EV, he says during a Q&A session.

Leaf sales rose 55.7% in July from year-ago, giving Nissan its best July for the car, which debuted in the U.S. in December 2010.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com