Titan V-6 Intro Date Unclear; Return of Xterra?

A smaller engine option for the Titan could be tied to the debut of the new Frontier, while Millennial males represent an opportunity to introduce another off-road model.

December 28, 2017

4 Min Read
Titan is V8 only either gasoline or diesel
Titan is V-8 only, either gasoline or diesel.

When it released details on the ’18 Titan pickup, Nissan failed to mention a promised V-6 for the truck’s lineup.

A top Nissan executive says the engine still is “in the plan,” but he won’t put an introduction date on it.

“A new Frontier (small pickup) is on its way, and a V-6 is more geared toward that segment,” Michael Bunce, senior vice president-product planning for Nissan North America, tells WardsAuto in an interview. “Both (the Frontier and Titan) are built in the same plant in Mississippi, so that opportunity is being looked at for Titan also.”

When asked if Nissan wants to debut the V-6 in the next-gen Frontier before it makes it available in the Titan, Bunce says, “I can’t give you any specific details on that, but we will be moving in that direction.”

In press materials for the ’17 model-year half-ton Titan, Nissan mentioned a V-6 was due at an unspecified date. Some industry-watchers expected it to arrive with the ’17 half-ton single cab variant in fall 2016, as Bunce and other Nissan executives before him have noted such a mill would be perfect for Titans geared toward work-fleet use.

“You know our dealers see opportunities (with a V-6), particularly for the work-truck application,” Bunce says. “They don’t need the V-8.”

A next-generation Frontier is widely expected to arrive in 2018 as a ’19 model.

It’s unclear if the next-gen Frontier will ride on the platform underpinning the Nissan Navara – a small pickup in markets outside the U.S. and which also underpins the new Renault Alaskan and Mercedes X-Class small pickups – be on an all-new platform, or continue on Nissan’s aged F-Alpha platform used in the current Frontier, last redesigned in 2004 for ’05.

In support of the latter scenario is Nissan’s announcement in September it will build the next-gen Frontier at its Canton, MS, plant, home to the current-gen model.

It’s also unclear what type of V-6 the Titan will receive. Six years ago, Bunce’s predecessor Larry Dominique, now CEO of the nascent North American arm of PSA, cited an interest in what Ford had done with its EcoBoost twin turbo V-6 in the F-150.

“Who would have thought three years ago V-6 turbos would be 35% of Ford F-150 (sales)?” Dominique told WardsAuto in July 2011. “Having somebody like Ford leading the way…I think is great,” he added. “It opens up the door to us to look at alternatives, as well.”

Fast-forward to today and the V-6 take rate in the F-150 is exponentially higher, as truck buyers have come to embrace the advantage of turbo V-6s in lieu of naturally aspirated V-8s.

WardsAuto’s mid-year installation data shows 79.4% of ’17 F-150s built in North America from October 2016 through March 2017 had a V-6. The EcoBoost 2.7L twin turbo V-6 accounted for 17.4% of all F-150s built in those six months, while the original 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 accounted for 41.4% of all F-150 builds; the naturally aspirated 3.5L V-6 had a 20.6% installation rate.

The 2.7L EcoBoost V-6, recently redesigned, is a 2018 Wards 10 Best Engines winner.

The Titan’s other large-pickup competitors, the Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram 1500, had much lower V-6 installation rates in the first half of the ’17 model year, at 10.5%, 5.1% and 24.0%, respectively. All of those engines are naturally aspirated.

The Toyota Tundra does not offer a V-6 option.

Despite its lower sales than the competition – 47,342 Titans were sold through November compared with 751,074 F-Series models – Bunce infers Nissan will remain in the fullsize pickup segment no matter how this current-generation Titan performs, as it needs to be in all major U.S. sectors if it wants to exceed 10% market share in the U.S.

“Like any segment you need to succeed, and the way you invest in the next generation is by succeeding in the current,” he says. “And the dealers are committed to that, our leadership is committed to that, Mr. (Carlos) Ghosn (Nissan’s Chairman) is committed to that. So we’re fully behind (the Titan) as a company.”

He also says Nissan would entertain a partnership for the next-gen Titan, although he notes it currently has no plans to do so. Prior to the 2008 recession, Nissan had inked a pact with Chrysler to use the Ram platform for the Titan.

Xterra Returns?

Meanwhile, Bunce tells WardsAuto Nissan is “very, very closely” looking at a return to the off-road utility segment, given the resurgence in popularity of the vehicle type. An all-new Jeep Wrangler is due in 2018, a new Ford Bronco comes in 2020 and various automakers recently have shown rugged concepts, including Toyota with its FT-AC CUV at November’s Los Angeles auto show.

“We know (via research) the Millennial male, through devices they’re becoming more isolated,” he says. “And they want to reconnect with friends, family, outdoors. And a vehicle is an expression, a way to do that. We’re doing a lot of work in the space to understand that customer very well.”

Citing an unnamed source, Motor Trend in October reported a body-on-frame SUV from the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi alliance, possibly a third-generation Xterra, is bound for April’s Beijing auto show.

While Nissan discontinued its off-road-oriented Xterra SUV in ’15, Bunce tells WardsAuto it “is a great asset in terms of a name and a badge. It’s on the shelf right now, but it’s something we could utilize in the future.”

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