By on August 25, 2009

Despite indications that Chrysler was moving towards a contract manufacturing business model, Automotive News [sub] reports that ChryCo’s Italian masters are considering not building Nissan’s next-generation Titan pickup on the Dodge Ram platform. And this surprising news has Nissan scrambling to look for other options. “My team is spending a lot of time looking at different scenarios of what we can do,” says the father of the Titan, Nissan VP for Product Planning Larry Dominique. One of the options is a mild in-house refresh and continued production. Another is approaching other automakers for a quick fix. Analysts tell AN that Ford, GM and Toyota are unlikely to help out, although Toyota’s excess Tundra capacity indicates that it might be a leading candidate for a Nissan rebadge. The only problem? “I doubt sharing a full-sized pickup with Nissan is in their corporate DNA,” says Michael Robinet of CSM Worldwide. “Nissan is in a precarious position, as their options are few.” Should Nissan abandon full-size pickups, or is there an option that actually makes sense?

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27 Comments on “Clash of the Titan...”

  • avatar

    How bad is the Titan platform?

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    What we need is a federalized version of this:

    Too many oversized trucks already.

  • avatar

    Nissan needs to just make the Frontier a full 8/8ths (as opposed to its current 7/8ths) scale pickup truck and bring back the Hardbody name for a true compact pickup. The Frontier has ballooned into a behemoth unfit of even the “midsize” label.

    There, problem solved. And giving my Ford Ranger some competition again would be interesting, as well, for those of us in the small pickup market (including all the parts stores, courier services, and newspaper delivery boys of the world).

  • avatar

    I am a long time owner of a 2004 Titan and it is a fantastic truck. I could go on and on but that’s not my intent. The current market does not make a good case for a new Titan design so Nissan should either offer more options (the VQ40 V6, regular cab, manual tranny, etc) or *gasp* cease production. If only they had a wild card technology like a small diesel with high mpg that can match the big V8s tow capacity then that would make a good business case for a redesign.

  • avatar

    Just to make things more interesting, abandoning the Titan alone is impossible since it shares the platform with the Frontier. Well, strictly speaking it’s possible, but would make zero sense financially since the same production line would still run with the associated expenses, but the market were ceded.

    Since we’re on topic, the news of Nissan considering doing it alone (continuing doing so, actually) circulated on the eve of the Chrysler’s bankrupcy. There’s nothing new in this, except for Fiat now considering the same proposals from the other side instead of Cerberus.

  • avatar

    Give it up Nissan, the Titan is hard to retail, and at the auctions they are so far back of wholesale book it’s scary. Not lately because there are no cars, but in general not a hot item. Nothing to do with the quality, the public is not big on them.

  • avatar

    Nissan should ditch this market for now. Full size truck buyers are a loyal bunch, and nobody is buying a big truck anymore as a family vehicle with gas prices being what they are.

    Toyota has been trying to make headway into this market for a while and has really not made much progress.

  • avatar

    I presumed that this is what would have pushed them into the arms of GM. With a truck line up for grabs and Wagoner out of the way, it would have been an ideal play.

    Barring that, if I were Nissan, I’d either acquire GM or else just abandon the segment entirely. It’s already crowded, and you can bet that both Toyota and Fiat will turn up the heat, while Ford and GM with fight to keep what they have. There’s no international play here and the market size for large trucks may stay stable or shrink, so staying here looks like a waste of money for a distant also-ran like Nissan. There’s a global market for small pickups, but not for these.

  • avatar

    At CyCarConsulting: I agree, the Titan’s sales numbers have been declining since its intro. The Titan is and has always been a niche truck, mainly bought by current Nissan customers.

  • avatar

    Assuming they can find better uses for the ill-reputed Canton plant (such as a compact euro-style cargo van, or maybe fork lifts), there must be better niches for Nissan in North America than full-size trucks.

  • avatar

    Why not take over the tiny truck market? There are so many little D21s still on the road (I know, I drive one every day) and I imagine a lot of people would jump on that. Nissan and Toyota both abandoned that segment and it’s a shame.

  • avatar

    Chalk up one wise move for the new Chrysler. With the limited market for these vehicles, why on earth would you want to wholesale them to a competitor which will strengthen the competitor’s dealers in a segment that is your bread and butter? Big trucks is the one market still dominated by GM, Ford and Dodge.

    This boneheaded move of Cerberus would be a lose-lose. Either the new Titan is a dud and Nissan doesn’t buy many (like the Mitsubishi version of the Dakota) or it is a smash hit, and customers who would likely have bought a Dodge truck are lost to Nissan. Dodge makes wholesale on the first vehicle, and loses the sale to Nissan on every subesquent non-truck purchase from that customer.

    Thumbs up, Sergio.

  • avatar
    George B

    Should Nissan abandon full-size pickups, or is there an option that actually makes sense?

    I vote for a mild refresh and cost reduction for the current model to delay redesign by 2 or 3 years. Nissan has already spent the development cost on the current model and it looks ok. It’s just too much truck at too high a price for me. I would love to see an entry level regular cab Titan work truck and possibly a VQ40 V6 option for better fuel economy.

    I am convinced that Fiat/Chrysler will fail. Possibly New GM too. When congress refuses to provide another bailout, Nissan could bid on the truck divisions at fire sale prices.

  • avatar

    I’m kinda along the lines of George B….I think there may still be a decent chance to pick up the Chrysler Truck line a few years from now. GM….I suspect they’ll make it. Very competitive vehicles on the road with more coming.

    However, I do think Nissan should keep this line. There’s got to be plenty of money still to be made in full size trucks. My guess (beyond the obvious F/GM/C owner loyalty) is that a lot of folks were really turned off when this truck launched with very little ability to customize the truck (engines, beds, etc) and HORRID quality problems. The latter really doing the truck in. You botch a launch like that, especially in that segment, and you’re done for a very long time.

    As long as they can fill factory capacity, they should be able to make some money I’d think. Profit margins on full sizers has still gotta be fairly decent. Maybe add some more options like a larger bed and maybe the V6 and it might work.

    Nissan shot themselves in the foot with all vehicles launched at Canton. One expects better than VW reliability from a Japanese car company…

  • avatar

    Yeah, I think this seals the fate of Nissan’s full-size line. Who would buy a mildly redesigned Titan when you could have a next-generation F150, Tundra, Silverado, or Ram for the same or less cash?

    The fact that the US needs a decent small truck market is a separate issue. Maybe Nissan will get back to their roots on this one?

  • avatar

    The Titan’s styling alway reminded me of a praying mantis, though I can never say what it is for sure that brings that out.

    The Titan has a powerful engine and an OK interior, but that is about where it ends. Reliability isn’t great, fuel economy is poor even by full size pickup standards, and the truck isn’t built to the same standard as Ford or GM products when it comes to durability and heavy use/abuse. Ford, GM, and Dodge don’t even consider the Titan to be a credible threat to the D3s pickup dominance, it’s an oversized Frontier, or a lifestyle/image truck, that’s it.

    Plus Nissan just doesn’t have the commercial sales or aftermarket network that is needed to succeed in fleet/business pickup sales. Ford owns the commercial truck market, with the combined efforts of Chevy and GMC coming in a respectable second and Dodge a distant third, Toyota and Nissan not even showing in the same league.

    The Frontier is currently a decent truck, the Titan only sells to Nissan loyalists and those who are shopping for huge bargains. Nissan should focus efforts on the Frontier, and perhaps as noted offer a true compact pickup to compete with the Ranger.

  • avatar

    I’m not a truck owner or intender, but I have to question why every generation of pick-em-up has to be more gargantuan than the last…how did we ever survive in the 70’s and 80’s when tiny little import pickups had little 4 cyls, and the ‘full-size’ units were at least 1000lb to 1500lbs lighter than these behemoths?

    Yes, there is a market for some heavy duty contractor trucks, but you can’t tell me that this entire segment isn’t overbuilt, overweight and overpriced. I’d venture that most owners use a fraction of their truck’s capabilities, and this is all just one big pi*sing contest.

    Seems to me the next step in truck evolution should be to design in some efficiency along with realistic payload, towing, and durability ratings.

  • avatar

    Do you think Nissan would ever just give up on full-size trucks altogether? Maybe throw in the towel and focus on other segments?

  • avatar

    I’m not a truck owner or intender, but I have to question why every generation of pick-em-up has to be more gargantuan than the last…how did we ever survive in the 70’s and 80’s when tiny little import pickups had little 4 cyls, and the ‘full-size’ units were at least 1000lb to 1500lbs lighter than these behemoths?

    Yes, there is a market for some heavy duty contractor trucks, but you can’t tell me that this entire segment isn’t overbuilt, overweight and overpriced. I’d venture that most owners use a fraction of their truck’s capabilities, and this is all just one big pi*sing contest.

    Crash safety standards, added equipment and the addition of countless luxury amenities can do that. Plus most truck makers fell into the old, but flawed, adage that BIG LUXO TRUCKS = BIG PROFITS and SMALL TRUCKS = Worthless. Remind you of anyone?

    The quickest way to promote a downsizing is to ramp up the CAFE standards for trucks. A mandatory 25mpg standard will reorient priorities pretty quickly and clear the room of the non-contractor, non-commercial fleet people.

  • avatar

    Dropping this segment seems to make most sense. The reason they couldn’t make this work is the design of a pickup. The majority of the trucks have varied very little mechanically from their predecessors. It has been a very slow evolution. The idea has been the same. Engine in the front, with parallelogram steering, and decent size brakes. In the back, you have a bed, with a live rear axle, and leaf springs. There really hasn’t been a need to change anything. Any changes, like rear coil springs, have been made to satisfy the posers who you loose every time gas prices go up. If you want to haul or tow, this is the layout you want. Cheap, simple, and durable. This is why Toyota or Nissan can’t get into this segment. There is nothing to improve. There are no innovations that Toyota or Nissan can do to make a better truck than the Detroit 3. “As good” never works because nobody switches from their proven car to another to get one as good. With cars, these companies made innovations in efficiency, reliability, handling, comfort, etc. They just can’t do it with trucks.

  • avatar

    My dad owns a small construction company in Chicago. His fleet includes an 04 Titan and 00 E-350 van. Both carry and tow countless powertools, building materials, and a skid loader (bobcat) on a large trailer. The Titan is weak compared to the Ford in heavy duty work, you could hear how much strain it put on the engine and the Ford has been through more(wheres P71 to tell me that it has a boat anchor for an engine)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Nissan should simply give up on the US full sized truck market. They are never going to have a sizable share of it, so stop wasting resources. I doubt Nissan is making any profit on the Titans it is selling thanks to miserable sales rates and the $5000 cash on the hood incentive it takes to move the few which are selling.

    Instead they should consider going after the same segment the Ford Transit Connect is targeting. Nissan-Renault surely has vehicles which compete in that segment.

    While they are at it, be serious about competing in the compact pickup truck market with a global product.

    BTW, smart move for Fiat-Chrysler for all the reasons others already stated above. The deal for Nissan to cooperate with Chrysler on small cars is dead as well, and for the same reason. Why would Nissan-Renault want to help Fiat-Chrysler with small cars? According to Autoblog, all of the product sharing deals between Chrsyler and Nissan went into the deep freeze back in February.

  • avatar

    I’d suggest Nissan stop crying over being spurned by Sergio and give Mr. Mahindra a call about retooling the Canton, MS plant to build and co-label his truck.

  • avatar

    I’m not interested in a Titan. If I want a full size I’ll buy American, because Ford, Dodge and Chevy have superior product in this segment.

    On the other hand, I would be interested in a lighter, more fuel-efficient Nissan Frontier. It’s a damn good truck that’s just too heavy and doesn’t get good enough mileage.

    For 2011 MY, Nissan should focus on the Frontier and make it a true champ. It needs a more powerful four-cylinder and a lighter frame, and a regular cab for those who want it.

  • avatar

    What about Armada? Any knock-off effects?

  • avatar

    +1 to the requests for a good small truck. We have a ’93 Toyota that does everything we need it to do while getting 25 MPG and not requiring a ground crew to park. The Frontier and Tacoma are far too big, the Ranger is far too old. When the Toyota inevitably gives it up (it was nearly totaled several years ago), I’d like to be able to get something similar.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I agree with repositioning their lineup. Make the Frontier their ‘big’ truck (i.e. leave it as it is) and then introduce a toy pickup with the 2.5 as the base engine and the 4.0 as an option. Not sure how R&D goes but perhaps they could recycle the FX chassis for this purpose.

    I read once upon a time that the reason Toyota would succeed and Nissan would fail was due to lack of options and engines. Whether it’s warranted or not, having shortbox, longbox, extracab, clubcab, smallV8, bigV8 seems to be the base requirement to compete in the segment. Nissan came out with a one-size fits all truck with a too-large base engine.

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