“We want to sell more of everything,” exclaimed Denis Le Vot, laughing out loud.
As senior vice president and chairman of the management committee at Nissan North America, it’s obvious he wants to move the metal, ensure dealers are cranking out as many vehicles as possible.
Counting its Infiniti luxury division, the Japanese automaker delivered nearly 1.5 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, legions of Altimas and Rogues, Maximas and Sentras. But the pickup-truck portion its North American business is perhaps not as strong as it could be.
Unquestionably, this is one of the most important segments in the automotive industry today, a linchpin of profits, particularly for the Detroit Three automakers. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Nissan introduced a completely redesigned version of its Titan full-size pickup a few short years ago, though, unfortunately, this hard-working rig has never really rocked the sales charts.
In 2018, Nissan sold fewer than 50,500 Titans in the U.S., a year-over-year decrease of nearly 5 percent. Compared to Ford’s imperious F-Series range or the pickup portfolio proffered by GM, Nissan’s sales are comparatively tiny.
But the truck business isn’t a zero-sum game. Nissan can still be successful even if it doesn’t beat rival companies in the annual delivery derby. “I would like to double [Titan sales],” admitted Le Vot, “But we are very happy.”
He pointed out Titan performs well in the central portion of the United States “just like the trucks in general.” It seems the smaller Frontier is popular in this region, too. Compared to its big brother, deliveries of this midsize pickup hit nearly 80,000 units last year, an increase of more than 7 percent compared to 2017.
As ancient as it is, in automotive years the Frontier is practically a fossil, it’s still a cornerstone of the automaker’s lineup. “Believe it or not,” said Le Vot, “You ask the people, ‘What is Nissan?’ [And] behind, let’s say, Altima and Rogue, the third name that would come would be, ‘Oh, Frontier.’”
Undoubtedly, part of this midsize pickup’s showroom success is attractive pricing. The base model with a four-cylinder engine and manual gearbox can be had for roughly $20,000, including delivery fees.
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But there’s only so long a product this old can remain relevant, even if it’s super affordable. Nissan will eventually have to introduce a redesigned model if it wants to maintain its share of the midsize-pickup market.
“As you know, we don’t speak about that, but we are renovating our range,” Le Vot said. “Every brand has a cycle… we are a bit old today and we are going to be very new in the coming years, say even two years.”
“Between now and, say, 2020, which is the… coming fiscal year, we’re going to have renewed 70 percent… of our range. This is very important,” noted Le Vot. Asked specifically about when an all-new Frontier might debut he said, “Soon.”
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