Nissan Titan gets Cummins diesel muscle

Farm Forum

Nissan delivers big news, but skimpy details, about its full-size-pickup future.

“Today I can assure you that the development of an all-new second-generation Titan is on track to challenge the status quo for truck buyers across America and maybe worldwide,” said Fred Diaz, divisional vice president, sales and marketing, service and parts, Nissan North America.

“As most of you know that in the heavy-duty-truck segment about three of every trucks sold are V-8 diesels, yet in the 1500 light-duty truck segment no manufacturer offers the capability of a V-8 diesel powertrain,” Diaz said. “So in conjunction with our great friends at Cummins, Nissan will respond to light-duty-pickup consumers by offering the next-generation Titan with a 5.0-liter V-8 turbo-diesel, rated at more than 300 horsepower and, more importantly, torque in the mid-500 lb.-ft. range.”

Beyond that, Nissan said for competitive reasons it will not be announcing the launch date or information about the pickup’s development until a date closer to production. Diaz said it will be several months before the new Titan’s unveiling. General belief among industry observers is it will be a 2015 model.

The Titan program is U.S.-focused, led by teams in Nissan Americas’ headquarters in Franklin, Tenn., according to Diaz. Interior and exterior design is being led by Nissan Design in La Jolla, Calif., and engineering and testing is performed by Nissan Technical Center North America in Farmington Hills, Mich., Stanfield, Ariz., and at Nissan’s global engineering center.

Camouflaged prototype trucks fitted with the Cummins V-8 are undergoing performance and durability testing on public highways.

Cummins representatives are as tight-lipped about the Titan project as Nissan, only confirming the automakers’ belief the Cummins-Nissan partnership will produce a practical pickup that will appeal to a select group of truckers.

“From the conversations we’ve had and the research we’ve done, we think there’s a market for this size, this niche,” said Dave Goggin of Cummins marketing and communications.

In this class it’s about a balance between fuel economy and torque, Goggin said. “The very large pickups and the torque they have available to them today — most people really don’t need that much. And offering somebody something in a pickup truck where they can still haul things, and tow nice-size boats and toys, but on the highway get some nice fuel economy they can live with is the balance this engine will bring to the truck market.”

Torque, he said, will be in the “usable” band. “Torque numbers will be down in that range that you see every day, and that you’re comfortable at operating the engine.”

Diaz is armed with explanations of how a challenger brand, which has been a quiet player in the segment — and with no major updates since its 2004 debut — can gain the attention of consumers known for their loyalty to the other, more-prominent brands.

“In a recent Harris poll, existing truck buyers were asked — ‘Would you consider switching brands if a Cummins V-8 turbo-diesel were offered in a light-duty truck by another OEM brand than the one you currently own,'” Diaz said. “And the result — 17 percent said ‘Hell yes.’ Seventeen percent of 1.75 million in the full-size truck segment is 300,000 units. So we at Nissan see this as a tremendous opportunity to expand Titan’s bandwidth in the full-size-pickup segment.”

A key reason Diaz believes the Titan will turn heads in the market place is “Cummins street cred.”

“A great powerplant like the Cummins engine that’s tried-and-true tested, which people have tremendous respect for, you put it in an all-new- generation truck and all of a sudden you have reason for people to look and consider us, who maybe wouldn’t have given us the time of day in the past.”

Diaz said Nissan research found there’s a lot of light-duty customers who need the capabilities, more torque and more towing than a traditional 1500 engine can give them, but who don’t want a 2500 heavy-duty permanently.

“When you’re driving a heavy-duty truck and you don’t have a lot in the truck bed or you’re not towing a lot, it can be lousy to drive,” he said. “That’s the white space we think we’re getting into with this 1500 truck and the V-8 diesel.”

Another ingredient in what Nissan believes will be a successful formula is great styling, featuring new cab-and-box configurations.

“It’s a nice truck — very strong, very bold with nice lines. It doesn’t look like a wimpy truck,” Diaz said. “So you take this bold stylized truck and you put a bold powerplant in it, like the Cummins, and I think you have a deadly combination.”