Illustration © Mark Stehrenberger

Nissan's 2003 Full Size Pickup

Following up on the news reported in November, Nissan has already created a full size design study in its Japanese studios. Based on information already known about this truck the illustration above was created.

Jed Connelly, General Manager of Nissan North America told PUTC, in Detroit at the 2000 North American International Auto Show, that while the new V6 would be a good engine for a full-size truck, it wasn't enough. "We've told (Nissan) that we want full-size, full power. So we want a V8."

"We told Mr. (Nissan CEO Carlos) Ghosn the first time, in July, when he first took over, he came out here. We had 15 dealers in, and the dealers said, 'Full-size, full power.' One of the dealers went so far as to say it'd be great if we had a V-10. Nobody would buy it, but people like to know there's a big brother out there. So our goal is full-size, full power. The target vehicle would be the F-150. That's what we told them we'd like to have."

"The Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge -- they are the market," Connelly noted, explicitly discounting Toyota's Tundra as a paradigm. "They're big, they're strong -- they're the ones that created the market. So that's what the people want, and that's where we should be."

Will such a truck appear in the near future? "We should have a decision about it in the next couple, three, four months... Once the decision's been made and the platform's been defined, we'll get our timetables. I think it probably won't (appear) for maybe three years."

Connelly confirms that despite Nissan's drive to simplify its product lines, the full-size truck may be built on an all-new platform. "That's why they (Nissan corporate) are looking right now, because they have to find the right platform and the right engine. I don't think they want to announce anything until they're sure they've got everything lined up. I think in a couple of months we'll have an announcement that will include all those details and the date it'll probably roll out."

Nissan Design chief Jerry Hirschberg told PUTC that design of the truck will be a collaborative effort between Nissan's Japan and US design centers. Initial sketches have begun in Japan, due to workload in the US center, but NDI in California will have the final say in all aspects of the truck's design.

With the success of Frontier and Xterra, Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee plant is running flat out. Connelly announced at Detroit that production of the compact Altima will be moved to Mexico, freeing truck capacity in Smyrna. Will that be used for the full-size? That was part of the dealers' mantra. "They said, 'Full-size, full power, designed in America, built in America.' In addition to that, Mr. Ghosn has said he'd like to have more U.S. production built in the US (Smyrna boss) Jerry Benefield has been asked to take a look at production capacity at Smyrna and see how much more he can get out of it," Connelly confirmed.

But expect to see the big Nissan sooner rather than later. "It's important to the company. We know it. Mr. Ghosn also knows it."

Given how cash strapped Nissan is, optional engine power will probably come from a derivative of the same V8 engine used in the Infiniti Q45 (4.1L, 266hp / 278ft-lbs). The 3.3L 170-hp V6 found in the Frontier compact truck would be standard. To avoid a 25% import tarriff the truck will most likely be produced here in the United States in Smyrna, Tennessee where Nissan's plant is designed to accomodate production of up to 1M vehicles - only some 300,000 are built there today.

The new pickup would also serve as the platform for Nissan to build a full size sport utility vehicle to compete against the upcoming Toyota Sequoia and existing Lexus LX470.