"We are ready to make this car the top seller if the customer agrees."

Nissan started Job One production for the 2013 Altima sedan at its Smyrna, Tennessee plant today.

Nissan has big plans for the fifth-generation Altima, which was the number-two selling car in the United States in 2011. The company is adding a third shift at Smyna, and shifting models around between this plant and its Canton, Mississippi plant with an eye toward the Altima passing the Toyota Camry as the top-selling model in America.

Toyota sold 308,510 Camrys last year, compared with Nissan's 268,981 Altimas.

"We haven't built and designed this car the way we have, and made all these changes with a goal of being number-two," said Nissan Americas vice chairman Bill Krueger. Krueger admits that the consumer will vote on whether the Altima becomes the top selling car. "But we are ready to make this car the top seller if the customer agrees."

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam chimed in on the rivalry. "We are going to give the folks down in Georgetown [Kentucky] a serious run for the money," said Haslam, speaking of Toyota's plant in the neighboring state.

Nissan definitely has the capacity to pass the Camry, as it builds Altimas at two plants.

Krueger says he is not willing to cut and slash profit margins to chase the top-seller number for Altima. Nissan has long been more aggressive in incentive spending than its Japanese rivals in large part because it does not have the brand cachet and reputation for durability and quality that Toyota and Honda have.

Nissan built 570,000 vehicles in the U.S. last year and is adding a third shift to Smyrna. Nissan executives, however, won't pinpoint what total capacity is for Smyrna and Canton for competitive reasons. But it definitely has the capacity to pass the Camry's sales, as it builds Altimas at both plants.

Driving impressions of the 2013 Altima are embargoed until May 25, but we are allowed to tell you about a new feature we think is pretty cool. The tire pressure monitoring system not only tells the driver specifically what tire is low, but when you inflate each tire to the ideal, manufacturer-specified level, the car's horn sounds. Pretty neat, huh?.

Nissan Altima Information

Nissan Altima

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