One thing the Japanese have demonstrated, over and over again, is that they live by the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” And nowhere is that more apparent than in the full-size truck market.
Despite repeated attempts, Nissan and Toyota have failed to dislodge Detroit’s firm grip on the huge and highly profitable segment. But even as the bigger of the two makers gets ready to reveal an all-new version of the Tundra pickup during the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Nissan officials are confirming that they’re working up a replacement for their own full-size offering, the Titan.
Japanese officials, hoping to grab a bit of Toyota’s spotlight, announced they are “prepared for (the) long haul” and are “moving fast” to launch an “all-new” version of Titan. While they didn’t have much else to say about their plans, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned some significant additional details from Nissan planners attending the Chicago Auto Show.
For one thing, while timing is still to be finalized, the second-generation Titan is likely to appear in U.S. showrooms “early in 2015, probably as a 2016 model,” revealed Joe Castelli, vice president of commercial and fleet vehicle operations for Nissan North America.
That probably isn’t soon enough for some at Nissan considering the big truck has been selling at a rate of only about 22,000 annually in recent years, well short of the company’s original target of around 100,000. That’s little more than 1% of the U.S. full-sized pickup segment, and means that segment-leader Ford sells about 35 F-Series models for every Nissan Titan.
Surprisingly, though, Castelli and other Nissan officials insist their truck is still a profit center, helping justify the cost of developing an all-new vehicle.
Nissan is going it alone on the replacement pickup. It originally planned to update Titan with a platform it would share with Chrysler’s Ram division – a move scuttled after the U.S. maker’s emergence from bankruptcy in 2009 as it formed a new alliance with Fiat.
“Selfishly, I am glad we’re on our own,” admitted Castelli because had the Chrysler deal gone through, “We would’ve been a ‘me-too’ truck.”
As it has in other segments, Nissan plans to put a heavy emphasis on “innovation” to build demand for the replacement Titan. No one is saying precisely what that will mean. It could cover anything from aggressive design to such distinctive features as the unique tire filling system that Nissan recently introduced on its latest Altima incarnation.
There are other issues the maker realizes it has to address, according to Castelli. For one thing, it needs more powertrain options. Potential buyers can all but be certain of a new V-6, the executive hinted, while a diesel appears to be another strong possibility.
“It’s something we’re definitely looking at,” Castelli confirmed, adding that the maker is talking with Cummins about providing the oil-burner. Nissan has already shown a prototype of a Cummins diesel it could use on the next Titan.
Though General Motors has hinted a diesel might be in the works for the recently unveiled Chevrolet Silverado, that is far from certain. In fact, Nissan could wind up the only maker with a diesel package for a standard-duty pickup.
Titan also will need more body variations, especially a single-row cab design that would increase Titan’s appeal to fleet users. But “We will not have full bandwidth,” he cautions, meaning a range of half-, three-quarter and one-ton packages. “We will walk before we run.”
The Titan redesign will be “a major part of an upcoming product onslaught” the maker said in its Japanese press release.
According to Pierre Loing, Nissan’s new U.S. product planning chief, the coming update “will expand Titan’s appeal to a broader spectrum of truck buyers, including the all-important skilled trades-buyers.”
But Castelli added that Nissan also hopes to appeal to the “urban cowboy” buyers who it believes are beginning to come back into the full-size pickup market.
Nissan is hoping to steal a little thunder from Toyota Chicago unveiling of the new Tundra. But its real challenge will be gaining momentum against the Detroit makers. The full-size pickup segment is, in fact, the last niche the domestics overwhelmingly dominate — and one they won’t relinquish readily.
Chrysler has been winning raves — and the North American Truck of the Year trophy — for its newly redesigned Ram 1500. GM hopes to score big with the next-gen Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra models. And Ford pointedly revealed the Atlas Concept, a prototype of what could become its next F-Series model, during the Detroit Auto Show.
Nissan has a Titan-ic challenge ahead for its next full-size pickup.