Nissan will be the next automaker to enter the gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle market, with a hybrid version of the popular Altima midsize sedan, reported the San Antonio Express-News
newspaper. It will go on sale in 2006 as a 2007 model, the company said in the newspaper article. In developing the Altima hybrid, Nissan has contracted with Toyota to use the system that powered the previous-generation Prius, introduced in the United States in summer 2000 and in Japan in late 1997. Featuring a Nissan four-cylinder gasoline engine and hybrid system components supplied by Toyota, the Altima will offer the performance of a V-6 engine with fuel efficiency higher than that of four-cylinder gasoline-powered compact cars, Nissan said. The automaker calls its Altima hybrid a "breakthrough model" that provides "dynamic acceleration performance, while minimizing the impact to the environment." In a move designed to get more hybrids on the market, Toyota has offered to license its hybrid technology to other automakers at nominal charges. In September 2002, Nissan, the No. 2 Japanese automaker, and Toyota, the No. 1 Japanese car company, signed an agreement to allow Nissan to build 100,000 hybrid vehicles over five years. Nissan will buy special hybrid components from Toyota, including the transaxle, inverter, battery, and control unit. Nissan's engineers will integrate a Nissan four-cylinder engine into the setup, rather than use a Toyota engine.