Exclusive Information on Nissan's Upcoming Full Size Pickup Truck

Nissan introduced a redesigned Altima, a freshened Pathfinder, and a new, 250-hp V6 engine. But the big news for pickup enthusiasts is right around the corner.

First, they announced that the 2001 Frontier, a "freshening" of the current model, will be unveiled at the Chicago auto show this spring. And then, in an exclusive interview with PickupTruck.Com, Nissan revealed details of its long-rumored full-size pickup, first seen in sketch form on PUTC.

Jed Connelly, General Manager of Nissan North America told PUTC 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."