Reported: Chrysler and Nissan Considering Vehicle Tie-up
By: Mike Levine Posted: 12-14-07 08:10 PT
© 2007

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Update #3: 12-18-07 14:05 PT

Automotive News spoke with Larry Dominique, Nissan North America Inc's vice president for product planning and strategy, who says Nissan is still looking for a diesel partner for the Titan. It's not going to be Navistar.

"No deals were made [with Navistar]. We are still looking for the right relationship," says Mr. Dominique.

More reason to look to Dodge Ram and Cummins? Titan is the only half-ton without a clear partner to the light duty diesel dance.

Mr. Dominique, by the way, could well be considered the father of the Nissan Titan. He's the man responsible for bringing the Titan to market.

Update #2: 12-17-07 08:30 PT

Asked to comment about the Newsweek story reporting that Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn hinted at killing the Titan, Nissan spokesperson John Schilling tells, "We have no plans to do anything of this nature."

Update #1: 12-15-07 21:24 PT

Newsweek is reporting that Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, recently hinted at killing the Titan because of slowing sales.

From the Newsweek story:

"Ghosn stresses Nissan's recent success with small cars, and hints he may kill the slow-selling Titan pickup (though Nissan officials say there are no such plans yet). "The name of the game is going to be more fuel-efficient cars," he says. "And when you make your product plans for the future, you can't say, 'I've always had a pickup truck, so I'll just keep improving it.' If you can't make it profitably, you have to get out.""

End Newsweek excerpt.

Connecting Ghosn's statements, above, with recent news, below, about an alliance with Chrysler, and it looks like the odds may have increased for the next Titan to be tied in some manner to the new Dodge Ram.

60,961 Titans have sold year-to-date, through November. That number may not be economically worth a dedicated production line at Canton, Mississippi, where the Titan is built (along with the Armada and Infiniti QX56 full size SUVs), but it's still large enough to consider keeping the truck alive if economies of scale can be leveraged elsewhere to reduce development and manufacturing costs. Cerberus Chrysler is sure to want to squeeze every unit of production it can out of its truck plants, by all avenues possible, to recoup its costs and build profits.

Now, if we carry this line of speculation out further, the real loser here could be Navistar - Nissan's long rumored partner for a diesel V8 for the Titan.

Navistar's current feud with Ford likely means we'll never see another Navistar produced Power Stroke engine again after the current 6.4-liter V8. Nissan could have picked up some of the slack from the end of that relationship. But if Nissan were to tie-up with Chrysler, it's likely that many, if not all, of the same engines used in the Ram would also power the Titan. That means a future Titan could receive a Cummins-sourced diesel motor, like the upcoming light duty Cummins V8 diesel expected for the Ram.

Whether the Titan is killed by Mr. Ghosn or there's an agreement between Chrysler and Nissan, it sounds like bad news for Navistar diesel fans.

Bloomberg and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Company are in discussions to share each other's expertise building small cars and sedans (Nissan's specialty) and pickup trucks (Chrysler's specialty). An agreement between the two auto manufacturers could lead to the exchanging of vehicles and engines with each other.

For over a year it's been reported that Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn has been interested in a tie-up with a U.S. vehicle manufacturer, to split supplier and production costs. Last year Mr. Ghosn held resource sharing discussions with General Motors that didn't pan out.

Nissan introduced the Titan in 2004. It's the only U.S. full size truck with fewer than 100,000 sales a year. Titan sales are about about one-third the volume of its next-biggest rival, Toyota's Tundra.

The Dodge Ram is ranked third in sales, behind Ford's F-Series and GM's Chevrolet Silverado. An all new 2009 Dodge Ram will debut next month at the North American International Auto Show and is expected to go on sale in late 2008.

By the end of 2008, the Nissan Titan will be the oldest full size truck in the segment, with all other models having undergone major revisions or received all new designs. A new Titan is expected for the 2010 model year.

Leveraging production economies of scale, similar to Nissan's agreement with Suzuki to produce the upcoming Equator midsize pickup, leads to speculation that the next Titan could be based on the all new Ram.

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