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In addition, a new PRO-4X version of the Titan comes with Rancho shock absorbers, a lower final gear ratio, two additional skid plates, electronic locking rear differential, body-colored exterior trim and special interior features including a unique gauge cluster.

With the new long-wheelbase Titans, Nissan now competes in segments that account for half of full-size pickup sales, Dominque adds.

The next logical step might seem to be heavy duty pickups with tons-o-torque diesel engines, but Dominique doesn’t sound quite ready to make that commitment. Instead, he says, many heavy duty truck users say what they’d really like would be trucks with the sort of accoutrements and ride qualities that are inherent in light duty trucks, though with additional power and payload capacity.

Without offering any details, Dominique says Nissan hopes to fill that void “sooner than later.”

BED EXTENDERS:

* Looking at the mid-size pickup truck market, Dominique said one reason such trucks have lost market share is that “20 years ago, in the under $16,000 price category, there wasn’t much other than compact trucks and ‘crappy’ cars,” and that many entry-level buyers opted for trucks. Today, however, entry-level buyers have many more choices, including a long list of good cars, while compact pickups have grown both in size and in price point, to the point that many would-be buyers can make the step all the way to a full-size pickup.

And while overall mid-size pickup sales may be falling, Dominique notes, Nissan’s Frontier has picked up market share two years in a row. He also notes that some 14 percent of Titan buyers are moving up out of their Frontiers.

* Looking at the rollout of the all-new Toyota Tundra, Dominique sees parallels to the family sedan market, where Ford, General Motors and Chrysler were dominant two decades ago, but where vehicles such as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima have become best-sellers.

While full-size pickup owners figure to be more loyal to the domestic brands than their car-buying counterparts, Dominique anticipates that the launch of the new Tundra will motivate more and more full-size pickup owners to consider test-driving other brands when it’s time to replace their trucks.

“For the first time, there will be five players in the full-size pickup truck segment,” he notes, adding that each manufacturer has a new opportunity to differentiate its products.

He notes that as part of its product development, Nissan has a “home placement program” in which it rotates full-size pickup owners through all brands for a few days at a time, then gathers their feedback.

“People tell us they loved the Titan, but had not considered it when they were buying,” he says. “There’s still a lot of awareness to build, and that’s going to take time.”

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