Any problems Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. had with the launch of its much-hyped ’04 Titan fullsize pickup truck now are being fixed, says Jed Connelly, Nissan senior vice president-sales and marketing.

Connelly says the truck’s rollout, by design, front-loaded dealers with seven to 10 vehicles on Dec. 3 in 17 key markets, including Phoenix, Atlanta and Miami – leaving other, less-vital markets with none.

Nissan, however, aimed for the bulk of dealers to have Titans on their lots by year’s end.

“I will be the first to tell you that by the end of the calendar year, unfortunately, there were some dealers who hadn’t gotten their first truck yet,” Connelly says. “But, that’s all taking place now.”

The plant now is building Titans at full speed, and all dealers by mid-month will have what Connelly terms a reasonable supply. Some 4,000 units were shipped to some of Nissan’s 1,100 dealers in December, while 8,000 units are expected to be shipped in January.

Titan launched slower than expected.

Connelly says it likely will be February or March before all dealers get a full stream of Titan trucks.

“I feel bad about that, but it was one of those things where we wanted to get an early feel for the truck, and how people were buying the truck,” he says. “And the best way to do that was to ship to some of the key markets.”

Early indicators have been positive, with a richer content mix, leaning more towards the more expensive crew-cab models than anticipated, Connelly says.

The initial response to Titan also has nudged along demand for the Pathfinder Armada, Nissan’s new fullsize SUV, built on the same platform as Titan and whose launch preceded Titan by two months. “It’s really hitting its stride now that Titan’s out there,” he says.

Of more concern has been the launch of the all-new Quest minivan, whose sales have been slower than Nissan anticipated since its fall 2003 debut.

Connelly blames time of year – fall is a less optimal launch time than spring or summer – as well as vehicle mix and advertising issues for the less-than-stellar sales. Nissan in December sold 3,800 units of the Quest minivan, short of its 5,000-unit target.

Nissan’s last-generation Quest minivan was a weak entry and had not been advertised for four years. Plus, higher-than-expected demand for the new Quest’s Skyroof – the four glass panels set into the minivan’s roof – prompted a change in product mix and the Quest’s configuration.

Nissan found a lot of interest in the Skyroof, but not on the top SE trim level – the only trim level on which it was available. The auto maker now has made the Skyroof available on the middle trim level, as well.

Connelly says by February the product mix will be better suited for the minivan market.

Nissan targets an eventual goal of 6,500 Quests per month. Says Connelly: “It’s not where we’d like it to be, but we can get it where it needs to be.”

kzachary@primediabusiness.com