STEVENSON, WA – Nissan North America Inc.’s Titan has the dubious distinction of being the fullsize pickup truck that has suffered the greatest sales decline, in percentage terms, this year.

Titan deliveries were down 45.4% through July, according to Ward’s data. The next-closest underperformer was the Dodge Ram, which suffered a 31.5% shortfall in a segment that sagged 25.4%.

But actions taken by Nissan to reverse the slide finally may be paying off, says Scott Shirley, senior manager-model line marketing for the truck.

“(August) may be the first month where Titan will be up over last year,” he tells Ward’s here during a Nissan truck and SUV preview for ’09.

Nissan sold 6,985 Titans in August 2007. The truck has not seen a year-over-year sales increase since it recorded a modest 2.8% bump in November 2007.

Nissan instituted dealer programs this month and last to whittle down stocks of the ’08 Titan, which ballooned to a massive 489 days’ supply in June.

Shirley says the programs have been “pretty effective, motivating dealers to really correct inventories” of the Titan.

He credits the spiffs with helping Nissan achieve its highest U.S. market share ever in July, which was 7.6% for the Nissan brand, alone, and 8.4% including the Infiniti luxury marque, according to Ward’s data.

“And that was largely due to that truck program,” Shirley says.

As the dealer programs end this month, Shirley is confident Nissan will have an edge over its competitors when ’09 models begin rolling into showrooms.

“Our ’08 inventory will probably get us through September,” he says. “I think a lot of competitors will still be dealing with ’08s come October and hopefully the ’09 (Titan) will have an advantage in terms of just being newer, fresher product – most of our competitors are just dealing with leftovers.”

Through Sept. 2, Nissan is offering $5,000 cash back on ’08 Titan King Cab and Crew Cab models, plus low financing rates for 5- and 6-year loans.

Despite being new-to-market, the ’09 Titans also have money on the hood, $2,500 on the King Cab and Crew Cabs and moderately low financing.

When it comes to selling fullsize pickups during times of record fuel prices, incentives are “more or less a fact of life” for the short-term, Shirley says.

“Between competitors with (0% financing for 72 months) and employee pricing you’re not going to get away for free.”

Nissan doesn’t want to be the leader in incentive levels, he says, but figures $1,500-$2,000 cash back is probably the “price of entry” to sell a fullsize pickup truck in the U.S.

But with competitors such as Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC launching their next-generation F-Series and Dodge Ram pickups, respectively, spiff levels will come back down to earth.

“As competitors launch new products we’ll see sort of a recalibration of incentives,” he says, adding that new entrants should shake up the fullsize pickup segment and generate more interest in all auto makers’ models.