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Nissan: We’ll Do Things Right Way Next Titan

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Nissan: We’ll Do Things Right Way Next Titan

By Christie Schweinsberg

WardsAuto.com, Sep 2, 2010 8:55 AM

VANCOUVER – Nissan North America Inc. promises to right the wrongs of its first-generation Titan fullsize pickup truck to ensure the second-generation model is a success.

“We’re going to do things the right way – the right way of marketing, the right way of product quality – to make sure we don’t have any of the hiccups of the first generation,” Larry Dominique, NNA’s chief product planner tells Ward’s at a media event here.

Nissan’s first fullsize pickup launched in ’04. 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’s most competitive segments.

Through July, Ford Motor Co.’s F-150, the best-selling U.S. pickup, has outsold the Titan 21:1.

“Consistency in marketing (and) consistency in awareness is critical,” 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’s recommended list, says Dominique, noting the publication is “very influential” with truck buyers.

Nissan’s current Titan will live on for an unspecified period.

The Titan now is back on CR’s list, “and we plan to stay on (it),” he says.

The second-generation Titan was to share Chrysler Group LLC’s Dodge Ram platform, but that plan was nixed a year ago after Fiat 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 “at least a couple years away.”

Nissan intends to continue selling the current Titan until its replacement is ready.

Despite the dissolution of the Chrysler deal, Nissan is retaining some of the styling cues of the Ram-based Titan that was on the drawing boards.

“Elements of the Chrysler joint venture is in the design,” Dominique says. “We liked the direction we were going, (so) why change?

“But we’re ‘Nissan-izingʼ it” by using carry-over platform and interior parts, he adds.

Also, Nissan will dip into the parts bin of the brand’s 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.

“But definitely it’s going to be what I’ll call a tougher direction than the current Titan,” the Nissan executive says.

While the auto maker needs “to be competitive” 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.

“When we came out with the (first) Titan, the F-150 came out and it really became a war almost,” he says. “Everyone was all of a sudden over 9,000 lbs. (4,082 kg) base towing; we had 9,500 lbs. (4,309 kg), Ford had 9,900 lbs. (4,490 kg).

With auto makers trying to meet tough new government-imposed fuel economy standards, Nissan needs to balance “the right levels of towing and capability and fuel economy.”

To that end, using the auto maker’s 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’s 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 with Daimler AG, 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.

“We haven’t decided what we want to do in the heavy-duty arena,” he says. “If you’re going to play in heavy-duty, the level of investment, the level of hardware you need is huge.

“And for someone like a Nissan or a Toyota (Motor Corp.) to go on our own and do something like that is a challenge.”



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