Overseas, Nissan Mulls Ranger Raptor Rival - Is It Time to Explore a New Frontier?
The other day, we learned of Ford’s new Ranger Raptor, a machine unveiled in Thailand with only the slightest of indications it may be sold in America. To not do so would be asinine in this author’s opinion, given the F-150 Raptor’s halo and the fact that folks can stroll into a Chevy or Toyota dealer and easily pick up a Colorado ZR2 or Tacoma TRD Pro.
Adding fuel to the midsized fire are comments garnered by Motoring in Australia, alluding to Nissan’s interest in developing a Raptor fighter of its own. T’would be based on the Navara, of course, a truck not available here.
Is it time for Nissan USA to take the plunge and bring the Navara here? Or is it better off continuing to pump out examples of the proven but older-than-Methuselah midsize Frontier?
Taken at face value, replacing the Frontier — a truck that’s nearly old enough to get its own driver’s license — is an easy decision. Midsize truck offerings from GM, Toyota, and (soon) Ford are packed with more technology and feature more efficient engines.
Walking it a step back, though, and the picture for Nissan isn’t as clear. Sales of the Frontier aren’t exactly in the dumps. In fact, the Frontier handily outsells its big brother Titan while reliably moving more units than the GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline combined. In January 2018, Nissan sold a new Frontier roughly every seven-and-a-half minutes. That’s not F-150 territory (it’s about one-tenth the pace, actually) but nor is it anything to sneeze at.
Consider this: the tooling for the current Frontier is long paid for by now. Research and development on the truck, while not at a standstill (witness the new-for-2018 equipment levels on the base trim) surely doesn’t hoover dollars from Nissan’s bank account like other models in its portfolio. Yet, the machines continue to sell at a respectable pace. The company must be making scads of money off every single one, even the cheap seats.
In fact, it’s probably those cheap seats that are contributing to those healthy sales numbers. Priced at just $18,999 for an extended cab 4×2 equipped with air conditioning, Nissan can rightly lay claim to the cheapest new truck in America. That’s worth something. It’s worth $18,999, in fact. Why plow money, time, and effort into a new truck when the old one is selling well and making bank?
One can make a safe wager, then, that the company will hang on to the Frontier as it currently exists until market demand or CAFE regulations forces it to make a move. Its current stable of engines available in the Frontier, a 152 horsepower 2.5-liter inline-four and a 261 hp 4.0-liter V6, probably don’t help with Nissan’s fleet-wide fuel economy.
Nevertheless, the noises reportedly being made by Renault-Nissan global light commercial vehicle boss Ashwani Gupta to Motoring are encouraging for fans of midsized off-roaders. “If you would had asked me this question yesterday [about a Raptor rival] I would have said this is not in our priority list,” Gupta said. “But if you are asking this question today then I am saying this is an opportunity we would like to study.”
Clearly, the company is taking note of what other companies are doing in the segment and at least considering some plans of its own. The remarks were reportedly spurred on by a meeting with Nissan Australia execs who made their case for a butch Navara. Keep in mind, the company now also has the bandwidth to draw upon the experience of Renaultsport and Mitsubishi’s Ralliart divisions to craft sporty or special versions of Nissan machines.
The prospect of a Raptor rival from Nissan is appealing, as is the Navara itself, but North American customers shouldn’t base their buying decisions on these overseas plans. Yet.
Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.
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