Nissan Altima Hybrid - 2011 Model Still to be Sold in Only 9 StatesBy John O'Dell June 22, 2010
When Nissan's 2011 Altima hits the streets later this year the lineup will include a continuation of the hybrid model that still will be sold in only a handful of states and will - perhaps for the final year - use the original hybrid system Nissan built based on technology licensed from Toyota.
The 2011 Nissan Altima still will be sold in just nine states and still will look just like this 2010 model, as the only changes are three new paint colors.
The 2011 cars are expected to end the present architecture's five-year run and when the redesigned 2012 Altima sedan debuts we expect it will be with a a hybrid model that is all new - including the same house-developed hybrid system as the upcoming M35 hybrid from luxury stablemate Infiniti.
We also expect the next Altima hybrid to be offered in all 50 states.
Until then, though, Nissan's only gas-electric car will be sold only at dealerships in California and the eight states that have adopted all of California's tougher-than-federal emissions rules: Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
It won't change much from the 2010 model, either - the only changes for the gas-electric Altima next year are three new exterior colors - two shades of silver and one apparently sandy tone called Saharan Stone. (Wonder if actress Sharon Stone gets a royalty payment for name infringement?)
Nissan types don't talk much about why the nifty hybrid has been restricted since its introduction in 2007 - but the reasons are many and varied, starting with the likelihood that it was decided from the start not to get too deep into hybrids while the electric car that became the soon-to-be released Leaf EV was under development deep in the bowls of Nissan's R&D center.
Additionally, Nissan was never too thrilled about having to use Toyota technology for its initial gas-electric powertrain - introduced when it was in order to help Nissan comply with California's zero- and low-emissions vehicle rules - and didn't want to spread it around any more than it had to.
Then there was Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn's oft-stated dislike for hybrid technology - he believed then (and apparently still does) that while they can provide a hefty boost in fuel economy, hybrids are too complex and costly to be profitable.
Toyota, though, claims to be making money with its hybrid technology and national fuel economy rules have gotten tougher since 2006, so hybrids are going to have to be part of almost every automaker's U.S. game plan. Nissan appears to be in the hybrid game for good.
Its long-term plans call for it to push the Leaf into the global marketplace by 2012, and to follow that with more all-electric vehicles, a couple of new hybrids and perhaps even a plug-in hybrid.
'Til then, the Altima hybrid - a car that bought a bit of sex appeal and sporty handling to the gas-electric segment dominated then, as now, by the distinctive-looking but decidedly unglamorous Toyota Prius - can only be had by residents of the so-called California emissions states. Too bad, but at least it seems as though 2011 will be the last model year that will be the case.