The all-new Nissan Navara, unveiled today, will be Nissan’s mid-size truck in world markets. But unlike past Navaras, our next Frontier will be a completely different truck. Nissan is (literally) going back to the future on this one.
Speaking with a supplier source, TTAC has learned that the next Frontier will abandon the current F-Alpha platform used on this generation Frontier/Navara, and instead use an updated variant of the D22 Frontier. Make no mistake, this is an old truck, dating back to the early 1990’s. Nissan is currently attempting to engineer the old D22 technology to be both emissions compliant and pass FMVSS crash tests with flying colors – and according to our source, they are not having an easy time with the latter. But there’s a method to their madness.
What Nissan is trying to do is bring back an affordable, fuel-efficient compact truck. Not a fairly large “mid-size” truck like the Tacoma, the upcoming Colorado/Canyon twins or the Global Ranger that everyone is lusting for. Instead, this will be a modern version of the old Nissan Hardbody. It will be simple, (relatively) small, and cheap.
The basis for this truck will be the Mexican-market NP300, which is an updated D22 Frontier, still sold in certain countries. The truck will have all-new sheetmetal, in addition to the emissions and safety features that FMVSS requires, but it will still contain the rugged (and, to be fair, somewhat antiquated) bones of the old Frontier. This gives Nissan a few advantages: for one, it’s a proven design that will have most of its costs absorbed via years of sale on the open market. For another, it will lend them a fairly lightweight architecture to develop the truck off of, which will be beneficial for fuel economy and of course, CAFE (which is notoriously unfriendly to small trucks).
An NP300 Crew Cab weighs in at about 3,800 lbs, while a current Frontier Crew Cab weighs anywhere from 4,200-4,500 lbs, no doubt in part to its over-engineered F-Alpha chassis shared with the Titan, Armada and QX56. This kind of weight savings is a major breakthrough in the truck world, with Ford touting the same 700 lb weight loss for its new all-aluminum F-150. Nissan seems to have achieved it by turning back the clock (though, with new crash safety and emissions equipment, that gap could easily narrow)
Our source was unable to estimate the cost of the necessary re-engineering, or what kind of pricing Nissan was aiming for, but there will likely be significant offsets from using off-the-shelf technology. The “small” truck segment is one that is generally derided as being unprofitable, with an unattractive price position relative to full-size trucks, low profit margins and unfavorable characteristics for regulatory compliance. But if Nissan really is dusting off old technology to provide a new, affordable small truck, Nissan may have been able to dodge these concerns while honing in on a niche that nobody in North America is serving.