First Drive: 2008 Nissan Titan
By: Mike Levine
© 2007 PickupTruck.com
debut in late 2003, the Nissan
Titan has struggled on several fronts
in the battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of full size truck
buyers – especially in three key areas.
Job One Nissan lacked a track record as a full size truck manufacturer
with traditional truck buyers – a group fiercely loyal
to the pickups they purchase and skeptical about anything new until it’s
been proven in the field, typically over years. Second, even though J.D.
Power and AutoPacific have both awarded the Titan with the highest owner
satisfaction rankings amongst full size pickups, early quality issues
were flagged around the truck’s interior fitment and rear axle
and brake durability, which reinforced the concerns of traditionalists
and limited market penetration with this group. But
third, and probably most important, Nissan hasn’t offered a deep, broad range
of models to appeal to the wide spectrum of potential customers in the
a large variety of cab, bed, wheelbase, and engine options wasn’t
an issue initially, because the Titan aimed for the half-ton sweet spot – high
profit, V8 powered extended and crew cabs short boxes – plus it
reduced manufacturing complexity. Even when actual sales numbers hit
just below the pre-launch annual target of 100,000 units, Titan King
Cab and Crew Cab brought in enough revenues so Nissan could avoid using
heavy incentives to goose sales.
full size truck market began to change dramatically last year, after
home sales and residential construction slowed and fuel prices started
to rise. For Titan, this meant a 16.7% decline in sales from 86,945
units in 2005 to 72,192 units in 2006, as non-core truck buyers began
to lose interest in purchasing a fuel hungry four-door 1500 class pickup
while true truckers decided to hold onto their current rigs longer
or bought different models not offered by Nissan. Even market leader
Ford Motor Company couldn’t escape this shift.
Ford saw sales of its number one selling F-Series pickups fall by 11.7%
last year, from 2005’s record setting levels.
challenges, this year as economic sales pressures have continued to grow
so has the competition.
began sales of a credible full size pickup with its all-new 2007
Tundra. The Tundra is another option
for consumers looking to purchase a full size import, but like the domestics
it comes in a slew of configurations – with
three different engines and three cab types. Through May 2007 Titan sales
were off 14.9% from the same period last year while Tundra volume more
keenly aware that if it wants to once again grow Titan sales volumes,
it has to increase the truck’s capabilities
and cater to the needs of more than just top-end buyers. As fewer
non-traditional buyers enter the segment, the Titan is going to have
to increase its appeal to hard-core and commercial truck shoppers.
“We feel it’s very important for the Titan to be perceived
not only as a private use vehicle, but also as a work use vehicle,” says
Paul Fisher, Titan’s product planning manager.