Nissan has announced that it will stop selling its Altima Hybrid after the 2011 model year. The car served as Nissan’s first and only hybrid since its release in 2007, but has only ever been available in the nine states that follow the California Air Resources Board’s tailpipe emissions regimen: California, Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island or Vermont. Nissan had previously talked about making the Altima Hybrid available nationwide, but it now looks as though that will not happen without a significant retooling—and certainly not for 2012.
During its five-year tenure as Nissan’s lone gas-electric, the Altima Hybrid may not have approached the sales numbers of competitors like the Toyota Camry Hybrid, but it generally received a mildly positive reception from critics. At 198 combined horsepower, the car was said to be more powerful and fun to drive than the Camry—if a little rough around the edges. The interplay between the electric motor and gas engine made its presence known a bit more than in other hybrids, but the trade-off was 11 more horsepower than the Camry Hybrid and 23 more than the standard four cylinder non-hybrid Altima.
Marrying Nissan’s best selling platform with gas-electric technology licensed from Toyota, the Altima Hybrid has been called “the neglected middle child” in the carmaker’s efforts to become the world leader in fuel efficiency. For Nissan that has meant a multibillion-dollar commitment to becoming the world leader in plug-in electric vehicles like the Nissan LEAF. In the meantime, hybrids seemed to fall by the wayside—though that may not be the case for long, as the carmaker recently debuted its very own lithium-ion-based hybrid technology in the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid.
Nissan says that the M Hybrid’s gas-electric powertrain will find its way into other vehicles “where it makes sense.” Given the Altima’s status as Nissan’s leading model—and the fact that the carmaker’s new North American lithium ion battery facility will sit just a few hundred yards from where the Altima is manufactured—there is speculation that a retooled Altima Hybrid may yet be in the works.