Nissan is going back to the future, embracing the “basics” of the compact truck segment, with plans to create an inexpensive, functional small truck when the current Frontier midsize pickup is replaced within several years.
For more than a decade, the mid-size truck segment has been shrinking as buyers shifted into full-size pickups that didn’t cost much more than the smaller ones. Larry Dominique, vice president advanced and product planning and strategy at Nissan North America, says the next Frontier is going back to what made small trucks popular in the first place.
“What we want to do with the compact truck market is go back to the basics of what it used to be,” Dominique said. “If you talk to the compact truck buyers, it’s not why they originally bought these things. They wanted a cheap, get-me-done truck and that doesn’t exist. If you go outside this country, we sell our old small trucks in high volumes because people want a cheap truck with a one-ton payload. We think if we can get that equation back in line -- and that’s a big if – we think there’s clearly a market opportunity.“
In addition to lowering the price, Nissan’s next small truck could shrink in size and lose some horsepower in pursuit of higher fuel economy.
“It wouldn’t be as small as our old Hardbody pickups,” Dominique said. “People like the space of the crew cab. But can the vehicle be three inches narrower than today? Can it shrink the second row by an inch and the front row by an inch and still satisfy customers? But I want to get better fuel economy and I want a lower price point. I don’t think we need 265 horsepower. The customer isn’t telling us they need all of that capacity. We need to work to define what we need to deliver to the customer.”
One thing that won’t change: Dominique said he wants the next Frontier to remain body-on-frame. There are too many compromises in capability using a unibody platform.