Truck Thursday: Nissan Developing New Titan, Going "Back To The Basics" With Compact Pickups

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
truck thursday nissan developing new titan going back to the basics with compact

About a year ago, Nissan’s response to nose-diving truck sales betrayed some serious ambivalence about chasing the profitable-yet-dangerous segment. Its first plan was to rebadge the new Ram, but that deal has fallen apart in the wake of Chrysler’s shotgun wedding to Fiat. At a loss for options, Nissan canceled the Quest, QX56 and Armada and started tooling up its Canton plant to produce commercial vehicles. It looked like Nissan’s days in the truck market were over. Now, USA Today reports that Nissan is developing a new full-sized pickup (and SUV) after all. By itself. Who’d have thunk it?

Why is Nissan getting back into a full-sized truck segment that it couldn’t even milk 20k units out of last year? Other than sheer desire to be a full-line manufacturer, there aren’t a lot of good rationalizations. On the compact pickup front, however, Nissan seems to have a better idea of what it wants and how it will get it. spoke to Nissan product planning VP Larry Dominique about Nissan’s compact pickup goals, and got the following heartening quote for their trouble:

What we want to do with the compact truck market is go back to the basics of what it used to be. If you talk to the compact truck buyers, it’s not why they originally bought these things. They wanted a cheap, get-me-done truck and that doesn’t exist. If you go outside this country, we sell our old small trucks in high volumes because people want a cheap truck with a one-ton payload. We think if we can get that equation back in line — and that’s a big if – we think there’s clearly a market opportunity….

It wouldn’t be as small as our old Hardbody pickups. People like the space of the crew cab. But can the vehicle be three inches narrower than today? Can it shrink the second row by an inch and the front row by an inch and still satisfy customers? But I want to get better fuel economy and I want a lower price point. I don’t think we need 265 horsepower. The customer isn’t telling us they need all of that capacity. We need to work to define what we need to deliver to the customer.

With a brace of low-cost cars planned for the US and a utilitarian approach to compact pickups, Nissan is clearly trying to position itself as America’s recession brand. It’s not a strategy without its risks, especially with Chinese and Indian automakers set to invade over the next several years. Whether Nissan’s pre-emptive strike against the newcomers, offering low-cost products with a trusted brand name and less third-world stigma, pays off remains to be seen. But at least they’re planning on addressing one of America’s most neglected segments, the compact pickup, with a properly utilitarian attitude.

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  • Dmrdano Dmrdano on Jan 15, 2010

    A standard cab with a 6 foot box would meet the needs of so many carpenters, plumbers, electricians, handimen (or women), etc. that currently are being force-fed the rediculous Transit Connect (Taurus with a big trunk and ludicrous price). Add a topper and you have a perfect vehicle. I would go with a standard cab but with long seat travel. That way the big drivers can get in and us smaller folk can put some stuff behind the seat. 4WD option is not optional (northern MN); it must be available or forget the whole thing, but make it reasonably inexpensive and you will sell a lot of units.

  • Banger Banger on Jan 15, 2010
    Pete Zaitcev: I thought about getting a Ranger, but then I looked seriously and thought I must be mad. Got RAV4 instead. 24 to 26 mpg in everyday driving, safety, comfort. Its only downside is, no low gear, so it hates steep inclines (I had to experience the ignonimity of being towed by a Tacoma uphill once). Every other feature is much better than Ranger’s. When I need to bring gravel, I take a trailer. Everything else, I drop inside on a tarp. And all for $25,650 in cash. Small truck? Madness, I say. Granted I’ve read about farmers in Ohio clamoring for really small trucks, for the cost of ownership and mileage. But they were looking at completely trashy Chinese “trucks”, not what Nissan can legally sell." The Ranger wasn't right for you. But that doesn't mean to buy one is akin to madness. I need no trailer to haul gravel or mulch. As I said, I didn't buy this truck as a nice vehicle to take the family to dinner in. I bought it to work, hauling things we couldn't or wouldn't haul in our Sentra. In 2007, for a then-one-year old truck with 15,000 miles on the odometer, I paid $10,000 cash for it with a totaled '94 Nissan Hardbody (~$800) for trade allowance. If it's necessary for you to spend an extra $15,000 or so to get a vehicle with the right balance of passenger space, nice features and utility for your needs, that's fine. But I didn't need nice, I needed tough. Tough is something the Ranger has in spades-- not to mention it's easier to service in every way than even my relatively simple Nissan truck used to be. My point being this: There is a market out here for these trucks. It's not just farmers-- in fact, I'd be surprised if very many farmers were in this market. Most of those guys need full-size capability, enough so to at least justify a six-cylinder full-size. (And by the way, none of the farmers I know would dare look at a Chinese or Indian truck-- that's just downright blasphemous in farm country!) But those of us who don't have the luxury of having a commuter vehicle through the week and a pickup for the weekends' light hauling desire a few things: 1. Decent fuel mileage (my Ranger gets, at its worst with lots of city driving, about 26 mpg. On my frequent highway commute with little town driving, I've averaged 30 to 32 real-world mpg.) 2. Cheap to buy, cheap to maintain (I've had my truck three years-- and it was paid-off in only half that time, thanks to its low price. Meanwhile, I can do oil changes with factory-recommended Motorcraft oil and filter for less than $20 and about 30 minutes of my time.) 3. Reasonable interior comfort combined with ruggedness (My Ranger's rubber floor is a blessing, after years of forever-dirty carpet floors. And the vinyl seats are tough, with a near-leather quality that has impressed many who have ridden with me. It's quite comfortable on my 50-mile daily commute, reasonably quiet, and has a good HVAC system that is simple to operate.) If Nissan can match the Ranger (and, to a lesser extent, the outgoing Colorado/Canyon) in those three areas of concern, they'll attract quite a few interested buyers. The biggest obstacle I see for them right now is price. But they've surprised me with the value proposition of the Versa (decently equipped at around $14,000-$16,000, with more interior space and better fuel mileage than our 2004 Sentra). I think if this truck stickers at less than $15,000 in base form, it'll draw some attention. Who knows, maybe all the parts stores would cross-shop Nissan for their delivery trucks-- a market Ford has had sewn-up for the last several years. I hope you underestimate American truck buyers' desire for thrift. Likewise, it is my sincere hope that neither I nor Nissan has underestimated American truck buyers' egos, long boosted by needlessly enormous, over-capable, artificially low-priced trucks.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.
  • Dartdude Lorenzo, the reason for low manual transmission here is that most dealers won't stock them. I wanted a 2012 Kia Koup with manual tranny it was available, but no dealers ordered any from the factory hence there was none available. Go on any car manufacture's web site and price and build and build your model and you would be lucky if the model existed and was available.
  • The Oracle Good news is that based on the model years many of these have already been junked or experienced terminal engine failure.