Market research is one thing. What happens in the market, post-research, is another.
The Nissan Titan represents a case of what researchers thought would happen opposed to what happened.
Nissan debuted the Titan, the Japanese auto maker’s first fullsize pickup, in 2004 after spending $2 million on consumer research to learn more about American pickup people.
The research concluded that owners of Ford F-150s and Chevrolet Silverados are diehard loyalists, unlikely to switch brands just because a new truck makes the scene.
But the market study sized up Dodge Ram owners as non-traditionalists, making them less stuck on a nameplate. Nissan figured it could sell 100,000 Titans a year, partly by grabbing some of the Ram’s share.
It didn’t happen that way.
For one thing, Titan sales never hit that ambitious target. Nissan still stands by the truck and insists it has a place in the lineup. But its sinking sales make it look more like the Titanic.
Of course, the fullsize pickup segment in general has shrunk in recent years, going from 2.5 million units in 2004 to 1.5 million last year, according to WardsAuto.
But during that time, Titan’s market share has decreased, while the Ram’s share has stayed steady and increased from 2010 to 2011.
In 2004, Nissan sold 83,848 Titans, 2.6% of the segment’s share. Ram sales of 426,289 units accounted for 13.4% of the share.
In 2011, deliveries dropped to 21,994 for the Titan, 237,236 for the Ram. But the Titan’s segment share dropped from 1.5% in 2010 to 1.2% in 2011, while the Ram’s share rose from 12.1% to 13.3% during that time, according to WardsAuto.
“We are proud to have gained (market share) in the fullsize pickup segment in 2011 in the face of strong loyalty,” Dave Sowers, head of Ram brand marketing, tells me. Ram now is a separate Chrysler brand, leaving the Dodge division in 2010.
The only other non-domestic player in the U.S. fullsize pickup segment is the Toyota Tundra. It is struggling, too. Its market share fell from 5.8% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2011.
Toyota and Nissan have done remarkably well in U.S. car segments. But, despite those consumer-research predictions, American pickup truck buyers usually don’t stray too far from home.