VANCOUVER ‚ÄďNorth America Inc. promises to right the wrongs of its first-generation Titan fullsize pickup truck to ensure the second-generation model is a success.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to do things the right way ‚Äď the right way of marketing, the right way of product quality ‚Äď to make sure we don‚Äôt have any of the hiccups of the first generation,‚ÄĚ Larry Dominique, NNA‚Äôs chief product planner tells Ward‚Äôs at a media event here.
‚Äôs first fullsize pickup launched in ‚Äô04. The auto maker hoped to sell 100,000 Titans annually, but never hit the mark, coming closest in 2005 with 86,945 deliveries.
Titan demand fell to 19,042 units last year, hitting the bottom in one of the industry‚Äôs most competitive segments.
Through July,Motor Co.‚Äôs F-150, the best-selling U.S. pickup, has outsold the Titan 21:1.
‚ÄúConsistency in marketing (and) consistency in awareness is critical,‚ÄĚ Dominique says of two problems the first generation encountered, noting Nissan continues to study what went right and wrong with the first-gen Titan.
Nissan research found few U.S. truck buyers knew the auto maker offered a fullsize pickup during its first few years of availability. In addition, the truck was plagued by early quality problems.
Brake judder (or shudder) and a rear differential problem took the Titan off Consumer Reports magazine‚Äôs recommended list, says Dominique, noting the publication is ‚Äúvery influential‚ÄĚ with truck buyers.
The Titan now is back on CR‚Äôs list, ‚Äúand we plan to stay on (it),‚ÄĚ he says.
The second-generation Titan was to shareGroup LLC‚Äôs Dodge Ram platform, but that plan was nixed a year ago after Automobiles SpA took a minority stake and management control of the U.S. auto maker.
Now Nissan will craft another Titan in-house.
Company officials earlier targeted 2014 for the launch, but Dominique refuses to confirm that date, saying the start of production is ‚Äúat least a couple years away.‚ÄĚ
Nissan intends to continue selling the current Titan until its replacement is ready.
Despite the dissolution of thedeal, Nissan is retaining some of the styling cues of the Ram-based Titan that was on the drawing boards.
‚ÄúElements of the Chrysler joint venture is in the design,‚ÄĚ Dominique says. ‚ÄúWe liked the direction we were going, (so) why change?
‚ÄúBut we‚Äôre ‚ÄėNissan-izing ľ it‚ÄĚ by using carry-over platform and interior parts, he adds.
Also, Nissan will dip into the parts bin of the brand‚Äôs other models to hold development costs down, possibly sharing a radio with the new Altima midsize car, Dominique suggests.
The exterior styling of the new Titan has not been set because engine configurations are not final.
‚ÄúBut definitely it‚Äôs going to be what I‚Äôll call a tougher direction than the current Titan,‚ÄĚ the Nissan executive says.
While the auto maker needs ‚Äúto be competitive‚ÄĚ with other fullsize pickups, Dominique stops short of saying whether the next Titan will match or exceed the performance specifications of other trucks on the market.
‚ÄúWhen we came out with the (first) Titan, the F-150 came out and it really became a war almost,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúEveryone was all of a sudden over 9,000 lbs. (4,082 kg) base towing; we had 9,500 lbs. (4,309 kg),had 9,900 lbs. (4,490 kg).
‚ÄúIt was way beyond what the light-duty guy needs. That‚Äôs just reality.‚ÄĚ
With auto makers trying to meet tough new government-imposed fuel economy standards, Nissan needs to balance ‚Äúthe right levels of towing and capability and fuel economy.‚ÄĚ
To that end, using the auto maker‚Äôs 270-hp 4.0L V-6 engine, already employed in its midsize SUVs, is a possibility. The mill gets better peak horsepower than the Ford F-150‚Äôs base engine, a 248-hp 4.6L V-8, Dominque says.
The current Titan has only one engine, a 317-hp 5.6L V-8.
A diesel remains uncertain, with Dominique noting Nissan has a number of options, including the possibility of tapping Cummins Inc., already a supplier of diesels for its heavy-duty commercial vehicles overseas. Cummins currently supplies a 6-cyl. diesel for the heavy-duty Ram pickup, as well.
Nissan inked a collaboration pact withAG, but forthcoming diesels from the German auto maker are earmarked solely for Infinitis in Europe, he says.
Also still being tossed around is a heavy-duty Titan.
‚ÄúWe haven‚Äôt decided what we want to do in the heavy-duty arena,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre going to play in heavy-duty, the level of investment, the level of hardware you need is huge.
‚ÄúAnd for someone like a Nissan or a(Motor Corp.) to go on our own and do something like that is a challenge.‚ÄĚ