EXCLUSIVE: Nissan Will Forgo Navara, Bring Small, Affordable Pickup To North America As The Next Frontier

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
exclusive nissan will forgo navara bring small affordable pickup to north america

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.

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jun 15, 2014

    @Roland--Thanks, I couldn't have said it better. Denver Mike sterotypes anyone who doesn't buy a full size V-8 powered truck as a cheapskate. If anything he is a cheapskate because he has 2 F-150s that are at least 10 years old. I like to be able to reach in the bed of a truck to get something out without having to get on a ladder and climb into the bed. I also like something that is not so large that I can park in my garage As for handling a smaller truck as any smaller vehicle will handle much better than a much larger truck. If I want a larger truck I would buy one but if I really needed the capacities of a larger truck I would get at least a 3/4 ton which are much more capable. As for DM's comment about getting a base 4x4 full size half ton pickup that is usually a custom order because the dealerships will not stock those unless it is one or two units at most to advertise a lower price. If you look on the lots of any new car dealership most of the trucks on the lots are the fully loaded crew cabs with every option available. The dealers will up sell most customers because "for just a little bit more in monthly payments I can put you in a Platinum or King Ranch version instead of the XL". Maybe that works for many but if you don't want one of those trucks then why should you be forced to buy something you don't need or want. Kind of reminds me of going to buy a new washing machine and told if you want it delivered we only deliver on Wednesday, take it or leave it.

  • Eyeflyistheeye Eyeflyistheeye on Jun 22, 2014

    I don't have a dog in the truck war, except that I do like choice, and that the full-sizers have made amazing progress in handling and mileage. My real interest is the fact that a platform from 1997 is being brought back as a new car in the United States almost 20 years later. The '90s wasn't a bad era for cars, they weren't super heavy, super complicated and the only thing compared to present day cars was safety though count me in as someone who would sacrifice a little safety for the liberty of a lighter, purer drive. Taking safety and NVH aside, there are times I wonder how things would be if it was possible for cars like the Honda DC2, F-body, S14 to remain in production into the present day but be updated with modern technology.

  • FreedMike I don't know why this dash shocks anyone - the whole "touchscreen uber alles" thing is pure Tesla.
  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.