DETROIT – Eleven years after the launch of the current model, and slowdowns that included an aborted partnership with the former Chrysler Group, Nissan unveils the second generation of its Titan fullsize pickup here today at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.
The truck detailed is the Titan XD, which, depending on how it’s configured, meets EPA standards for a medium-duty pickup. In marketing terms, that aligns with the heavy-duty moniker used by the Detroit Three.
The Titan XD will be the only Titan model to offer the heavily promoted Cummins 5.0L V-8 turbodiesel, which Nissan says will churn out 310 hp at 3,200 and 555 lb.-ft. (752 Nm) of torque at 1,600 rpm.
It is an engine that Cummins had on its shelf, but the automaker and engine maker worked together on its tuning and final calibration, says Cummins spokesman David Goggin. The same engine is going to market in school buses, RVs and medium-duty trucks, although with a bit different turbo arrangement, Goggin says.
As WardsAuto first reported, the Cummins medium-duty diesel also is expected to make its way into Toyota’s Tundra.
The Titan XD also will offer a gasoline V-8 engine, expected to be a refreshed version of the current Titan’s 317-hp 5.6L V-8.
A V-6 gasoline engine will be offered in non-XD Titans, but Nissan is mum on whether it will be turbocharged a la the EcoBoost in Ford’s F-150. Some former Nissan executives hinted this was a direction seriously considered, given how quickly EcoBoost grabbed truck buyers’ attention.
The XD will be the first of the new Titans to hit the market, in fourth-quarter 2015, and is seen by Nissan as an alternative to the almost-too-powerful Detroit Three medium-duty models.
“We believe, even though our competitors make literally millions of variations of their trucks, we found legitimate consumer whitespace in this complex and crowded segment,” Phil O’Connor, director-Chief Marketing Manager for Nissan North America, tells media last week during a briefing on the pickup.
Truck Should Ease Quandry for Buyers
Nissan estimates up to 150,000 fullsize pickup buyers have to compromise every year, either buying a light-duty model that doesn’t have the towing and payload specs they need, or buying a medium-duty model that overcompensates.
“(Customers wonder,) do I need to buy a truck that has 24,000 lbs. (10,886 kg) of towing?” says Rich Miller, director-product planning for Titan. Therefore, Nissan is positioning the Titan where competing heavy-duty pickups were “back in 2003, 2004 and 2005.”
The Titan XD will tow a maximum 12,000 lbs. (5,443 kg) when properly equipped, and a 2,000-lb. (907-kg) max payload.
Nissan promises the new Titan will compete more fully against the Detroit Three’s offerings, by having two frame sizes (Titan and Titan XD), three cab configurations (Single, King and Crew), and three bed lengths, including 5.5 ft. (168 cm), 6.5 ft. (198 cm) and and 8 ft. (244 cm and Single Cab only).
“We will be competing at all points in the fullsize pickup segment, which is something we haven’t been doing up to now,” O’Connor says.
U.S. sales chief Fred Diaz last year promised Nissan would cover 90% of the fullsize-truck segment in terms of cab sizes and powertrains, up from 55% with the first-gen Titan.
The Titan’s fully boxed frame is supplied by Tower and “very similar to the one we have now,” Miller says. However, he notes the front suspension is different, as are the frame rails and the geometry of the steering.
The front suspension and the XD’s large brakes come from the Nissan NV large van, which has lineage with the current Titan model.
Titan XD features include lots of convenience items, many spurred by customer research, such as puddle lamps under the tow mirrors that illuminate when someone approaches with the vehicle’s key fob; a bigger step rail that extends back to the bed for easier access to items stored there; storage bins, now lockable, moved from the exterior on the outgoing Titan to in-bed; a high-mount lamp behind the cab and a tailgate lamp; and a damped tailgate, which slowly lowers upon opening.
Returning items include a spray-in bedliner and channel system, with in-bed tracks for securing items.
To make towing easier, the truck’s rearview monitor comes with trailer guides.
Trailer sway control, tow-haul mode and downhill speed control and integrated trailer-brake controller are other towing-related features of the new Titan.
Nissan focused on designing a “tough and rugged” Titan, Miller says. A large grille with “Titan” stamped into the top fits this goal, he says, as do “piercing” projector headlamps.
The interior of the new Platinum Reserve grade of the Titan was inspired by an upscale hunting jacket, hence leather seats with a boxy quilted pattern.
Other interior features include in-floor storage and a more open center console, thanks to the relocation of the shifter to the steering column.
Other grades of the XD include SL and the sporty PRO-4X, seen here in an egg-yolk yellow paint.
Pricing and fuel-economy details of the Titan XD, and full details of the non-XD Titan, will be shared at a later date, Nissan says.
While a variety of aerodynamic measures were taken to improve fuel economy, such as underbody panels and wheels flush with tires, Miller says performance was a bigger focal point for the Titan XD.
“Fuel economy is better because it’s a diesel, but that’s not the main purpose of this engine,” he says.
For the turbobdiesel, Cummins spokesman Goggin notes it has aluminum heads, a compacted-graphite iron block and polymers “where we could use them.”
Nissan Targets Return to 2005 Sales Level
Much like the first-gen Titan, the second-generation model is not so much an effort to upend sales of the Detroit Three’s entrants, but make Nissan a bigger part of the conversation in a key segment in the U.S. market.
Nissan notes if it could have replicated 2005 Titan sales of 86,945 in 2014, it could have tacked on another half-point last year to its 8.4% U.S. market share.
“(Fullsize pickup) is as important a segment as there is in this industry,” O’Connor says. “We have a hole in our lineup, there’s no doubt.”
The hole has been due to Nissan’s continued shrinking sales in the segment, as the first-generation Titan has gotten older. Just 12,527 Titans were sold last year, giving Nissan a meager 0.6% of the 2.0-million-unit WardsAuto Large Pickup group.
Ford’s F-Series again was the segment’s share leader, with its 700,796 deliveries representing 35.1% of all large pickup sales in 2014.
One concern of previous Nissan executives was that the automaker didn’t have enough stores in rural markets, particularly in pickup-loving Texas, to serve interested parties.
O’Connor says while Nissan is looking to beef up its retail network, this isn’t as big an issue now. His bigger worry is getting dealers ready to sell a large pickup.
“It really starts with a change in mindset,” he says. “(Our) dealers are very good at selling cars and SUVs. Even the Frontier is more common, I think, with the Pathfinder in terms of vernacular…so we’ve really got to spend a lot of time prepping them.”
Nissan is not putting a sales projection on the new Titan, but former Nissan executive Andy Palmer told WardsAuto in August 2013 that the automaker must sell 100,000 units annually, the first-gen Titan’s sales target, to “make the business plan work.”
He also expected diesel-equipped models would account for 10%-15% of total Titan sales.