2010 NAIAS: Nissan Wants to Take Small Trucks Back In Time

2010 NAIAS: Nissan Wants to Take Small Trucks Back In Time

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.


Thank you, Nissan!!! This is the right direction. Finally a manufacturer that gets it! I haven’t been this excited about a new small truck since the Dodge M80 concept!

Basicly Nissan has decided to go after the Mahindra buyers with a "more modern" basic truck.

Ought to be interesting.

This is exactly what all the major companies need to do. The typical 2014 production date of these new vehicles is a long way off, though.

The Nissan Frontier is failing in the US market because it's four-cylinder engine is complete crap, though, not because the truck frame itself is bigger. If you gave the base four an extra twenty hp and lb-ft the truck would sell far more than it does. I have no idea why the hell Nissan expects everyone to buy the 260 hp V-6 that gets the same mileage as an F-150. With a good fuel-efficient and more-powerful four it would be on top of my list of favorite midsize trucks and would probably sell a ton more to fuel-conscious buyers.

That said, I think it's been proven that midsize trucks are a losing market. Back in 2001 when all the trucks were compact Edmunds and all the major publications placed the Dodge Dakota as number one. Even today they rank the Dakota as number three, with the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma taking the top spots.

Which ones are tops, even today? The Tacoma and Ranger.

What a shame. Mid size trucks were the best of both worlds. They gave you the space and capability of a compact with the efficiency and cost of a full size.

There needs to be a bigger gap in price and fuel economy between full size and Mid/compact size. I don't need huge towing or hauling numbers. I'd buy a small 4x4 crewcab truck with a 5-6 ft. box if it was going to save me money. Nissan may be heading in the right direction.
North Americans need to get over "the bigger is better" mentality.
@ smtrthnu - your post sums up why the midsize market isn't doing well. Small truck size, and decreased capacity - with full size truck costs.

Mid 90's Nissan Hardbody Regular cab, 4cyl, stick shift, 4wd, with manual locking hubs was the best truck I ever had. Way to go Nissan bring it back.

Yippee finally some good truck news , and make a regular cab long bed 4x4 and I might just be all over it , my parents first year Nissan Hardbody is still going even though it has been the family truck (read abused) since my Grandparents bought it new .

This is EXACTLY what I've been clamoring for!!!

Way to go, Nissan! If you're successful, then hopefully Toyota will bring back their compact truck again too!

Even better - imagine if they started putting solid front axles under compact trucks again! Along with a manual transmission, 4:1 t-case, and difflocks, this would be a truck buyer's wet dream come true!!!

Just remember that a four cylinder isn't necessarily going to give you better gas mileage than a six cylinder and a 6 better than an 8. A truck, even with an empty payload, has a lot more weight than a car. As a matter of fact go check the estimated gas mileage on the stickers on some trucks and compare a 4, 6, and 8 cylinder. You will be surprised!

They just need to improve the MPG's of these trucks, don't make them smaller if anything a little bigger, who wants to ride around in a cramped little truck?

This is the wrong way to go!!!!!! If anything a little bigger. A mid size truck is there daily driver. And the perfect vehical to take the family to the beach. But who wants to be cramed up back there in a even smaller cab? Not me. Plus your truck goes on many long trips through out the year. The cabin, mountins, and so on. I race motorcycles and use it every weekend on 2-3 hour drives to a track. I dont want to put my friends in a cramped back seat. I'll go get a Toyota Tundra super cab!

ya we dont need 265 hp.... we need 400 hp

Wow... and here I was expecting another powerful strong mid size truck... IDK why you all see this as a good thing. This was option 2 truck to the fullsize... People who want power yet would rather pay less and have better fuel economy buy these new powerful mid size trucks. Now they're taking away that option. What are we planning on hauling now..??? Teddy bears, flowers, and lawnmowers? (lol that was all over the place... hahaha).

What they need to do is build a TRUE compact pickup and keep a midsize pickup in the line-up...they do it with cars and SUVs all the time.

I actually own a 2009 Nissan Frontier 4 cylinder and I love it. Although the power numbers may seem a bit low it does everything I need it to do and more. (while getting 23 mpg+). The biggest factor for me was price and reliability. I paid 16K for it new and that's pretty hard to beat considering I can haul my kids in the extended cab and 1100 lbs of payload in the 6 ft bed. So in my opinion I think Nissan is going the right direction. We dont' all need 300 or 400 horsepower barns to drive down the road. (I used to own one myself and I really prefer the Frontier over my old Chevy Half Ton.) That being said I hope they keep it a bit bigger than the Ford Ranger as I used to have one of those too and it was just too darn small. (but very reliable nonetheless)

I'll second that -- Finally somenone gets it!

All Nissan needs to do now is bring back the 510... RWD, independent suspension all around and those cool quad headlights...

I cant wait! I want to buy one and cut it up and slam it to the ground on some 22's lol

To make my point clearer (Jan 14, 2010 5:53:59 PM)
Cars - subcompact, compact, midsize, fullsize
ie Toyota Yaris, Corolla, Camry, Avalon
SUVs - compact, midsize, fullsize
ie Ford Escape, Explorer, Expedition
Pickups - compact, midsize, fullsize
ie (1990s) Dodge Ram50, Dakota, Ram 1500/HD

The problem is...the Ranger is the only remaining compact, and all other "compacts" are larger than the ranger or nearing the size of an F150. Dodge had the right idea with the compact Ram 50 and the midsize Dakota in the 90s. What we need are true compacts with great fuel efficiency and midsizers with good passenger room under the same brand.

@billy - I agree. As long as there is a big enough price difference between the compact, mid, and full size pickups. I get the feeling that the North American market will get a bunch of unibody "trucks" in the next 5 years. There are rumors of a Dakota unibody, Scion is relooking at a unibody vehicle, VW Amarok is looking at the North American market, Honda already has one.I think the Ridgeline doesn't sell well because it's too expensive and doesn't have the utility of a regular p/u. GM is looking at the Holden ute. I think Nissan has the right idea with scaling down the Frontier to a compact size.

I loved the "Hardbody" style Nissan trucks from years past...and they still look appealing today. Nissan would look like a modern-day pioneer...a hero even....if they would re-create that small truck simplicity today - of course upgraded with a satisfying & economical powertrain - and sell them for $14-18K.

If they sell a simple close to hard body size truck with a turbo diesel I'd ditch my 10yr old truck immediately. I don't need a fast truck, a luxury truck, or any other features that will end up breaking in a couple years. I can get a luxury sports coupe for that. Just give me a bare bones truck with steel wheels, manual hubs, manual transmission, and a small turbo diesel that gets 30mpg. Seriously considering a Mahindra if they ever start selling here in the U.S. although they have added luxurious features that I don't care to have.

My 2001 Ranger 4 cyl manual got 30MPG hwy, and carried all the junk this suburban homeowner needed to carry. Thank goodness Ford hasn't "updated" this truck in 13 years, as it's the only one small enough and fuel efficient enough that I'd buy today. Too bad about the El Camino, as that showed promise, albeit a bit large. Too bad about the Subaru Brat/Baja 2WD. I'd love to see a new Datsun-era-type small pickup again. Those things were perfectly sized and built Nissan tough.

About time! I'm one of many small females who want to tote our remodeling supplies from Home Depot and take my kayak out on weekends. Our numbers are legion. Give us a small, useful, high-mileage truck that's heavy on safety features and you'll make a FORTUNE. Seriously. I have NO desire to drive a Ford F-150 (having done that once) and am disgusted by the auto companies' obvious assumption that only 6'4, 300# troglodytes want trucks! Scale down the truck (not the bed!), add a Volvo-like safety cage in the cab, and sell it for $12K or less. I double-dog dare ya! I'd pay an extra $2K for a hybrid electric version!

I'm pretty stoked on this as well.

I've owned a newer CC Long bed Frontier, but it was just too big for my needs and the mileage sucked, 16mpg freeway. I still own my 84 720 Kingcab, 300k+ and still running strong! 25+mpg with the Z24 engine. Sure, it's only putting out 100 hp at the wheels, but that's all I need. I'm not in a hurry and I'm not hauling 25' ski boats. I want a 6' bed with a canopy so I can toss stuff in the back and take off. Maybe haul a couch, help a friend move, whatever...

True compacts need to come back, we don't need all this big, fancy, suburban influenced fluff in a truck like the new Tacoma's and Frontiers... Just barebones and basic.

...One more time...

4wd, 25mpg, less than $15,000... Shouldn't be that hard.

A nice, little torquey 4 cylinder.

Great move, Nissan!! Nissan (Datsun) created the compact truck segment in the US. I'm thrilled to see they will be the company to rejuvenate it!

The most important thing they need to do is the price of the small trucks.If they want me to buy their small truck when I can buy a full size truck with more room and towing for just a little more coin then they need to adjust their price accordingly.This used to be a huge plus in the old days was a great little truck for cheap.

I love this!!! I mean i've gotten so used to my little Izusu Hombré, I mean it's perfect for me. It gets 25 MPG average, hauls a yard and half of mulch, my lawnmower, bike, yard tools, etc. I don't really need much more and the only thing on the market even close to it is the Ranger and thats leaving at the end of this year! So this is coming at just the right time!
I really hope they keep the rugged looks of the Frontier. In my opinion: best looking truck on the market. Just a little smaller and I'd buy it in a second!

It about time Nissan going back to the basic, you market what you know sell well, not to mention with high gas prices and low gas mileage you not going to have a good sell. Make the truck affordable and with good gas mileage. That the reason I both my hardbady 15 years ago and it still relieable. I am looking forward to Nissan small truck again.
Many Thank you.

Sorry, if you have to take off a tire to change the oil then I would never buy a Nissan!

I own a 2008 Nissan Frontier and I love it! Nissan don't discontinue the mid-size Frontier. Go ahead and create a smaller truck if you want but leave this one in production. If anything, work on improving it further. Can you reduce its turning radius? Can you get a better center console so one can rest their arm on it when the seat is pulled forward? Could you add a telesopic steering wheel? It rides great, is quiet, steers great, and hauls lots of stuff in the cargo area. I have the 4 cylinder with 5 speed and its just fine in both horespower and torque. Don't kill this good truck. Create another if you have too but don't shoot this one.

Way to go Nissan, PLEASE MAKE IT WITH MANUAL HUBS TOO..Whats wrong with all these truck manufactures and these gas hog auto-hubs , which is in reality full-time ....I would be happy with a current mid-sized truck with manual hubs and a small diesel in it . 25-30 mpg should be easy to get..

I welcome this effort to re-introduce the compact pickup truck. I currently drive a 1998 Toyota Tacoma that I would like to replace. It's been the best small truck I've ever owned, however I do not plan on buying the current Toyota Tacoma which has grown to mid-size proportions. The reason is simple, I want a true compact pickup not a mid-size pickup.

I been looking for a replacement for my 1986 Z24 Nissan King Cab for YEARS. The problem is there isn't a pickup truck out there that gets better gas mileage than what I already have. (19/24 mpg sometimes 26) The only real advantage to the new trucks is safety. However, small pickup trucks manufacters still haven't quite perfected that either (although the 2010 Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma come really close). I love the idea that the Frontier has rear disc brakes but I would lile to see them bigger and more robust. I'd love to buy a safe compact diesel (good torque and MPG) with rear disc brakes that's reasonabily priced and has reasonble styling. The upcoming Mahindra pickup comes closest to what I want but it's Fugly.

I would have probably still owned my hardbody if it came in a crew cab. I still have my first gen 4x4 Crew Cab frontier with 235K miles on it. Truck does everything I have ever asked except get good gas mileage. the reason I still have it no one offers a compact pick up any more. Nissan make a diesel crew cab of similar dimensions, features and capabilities and I will be at the dealership tomorrow.

Signed 20 year nissan owner 91 Hardbody 4x4, 95 Pathfinder, 2000 Frontier Crew Cab 4x4

I think there definately is a big market for compact pickups with a crew cab but you just can't beat an extended cab for all around practicality. Most crew cabs usually have a very short bed giving it limited hauling capacity. However, extended cabs can have the same bed length as a standard cab giving you the best of both worlds - good hauling capability and ample cab space. The best choice would be to make compact trucks with a choice of standard, extended, or crew cabs so one could buy a truck that meets their needs. Sorry Mahindra, not offering an extended cab is a VERY big mistake. Lets hope Ford and Chevy get it right.

As the current owner of a '98 4-cylinder, 4WD Frontier, I beg you to put simple, efficient, strong, reliable, manual hubs back on your trucks, so I can finally buy another one! In the meantime, I will keep this beauty.

I have a year 2000 Frontier,I love the size of the truck,The new Frontier trucks seem a bit to large,they are close to full size,I like the idea of downsizing a bit.

i agree with jay berry
i have a 98 king cab fronty and wouldnt want one ANY bigger
and i have a 88 reg cab hardbody and a 68 520! i love minitrucks

I would like to see VW come up with a crew cab diesel pick up that is retro like the 60's vans. That would rock!
If they can build a the new beetle and it basically hasn't changed since they introduced it why can't they build a nice compact pick up for NA? Build it in mexico - I don't care where - but build it. oh wait they have built it ok not retro but very nice with a turbo diesel too! http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2010/10/vw-amarok-wins-the-international-pickup-truck-of-the-year-award.html
but we can't get it here because the damn government doesn't want us to have it.

Those of you that want a smaller truck can go ahead and get it. I own the 2005 Nissan Frontier LE V6 and I just love, I had a 1999 Toyota Tacoma, love it except it was too tight inside for me and it would not carry the payload I can carry now. I don't load it often but it is there when I need it. I am not in the market for some little four cylinder that is cheap and I can't pass or climb a hill without downshifting or a auto that is stressing to downshift, not for me. I love the size of this truck lost of room without having the big, tall full size truck, and I will stay with it's size, oh, by the way I'm 209 lbs and 5'11" tall so not super big. I want some of the good technologies put in this truck like the others put into the big truck, most I talk to would like more also in this truck, they don't buy them because they as cheap, this is 2011 we want more in out truck, the truck is a daily driver for me and a lot of others, we need to be able more creature comforts

My 1984 Toyota Hilux is almost worn out and toyota does not sell a "small" truck anymore, so please bring back a small high mileage, high mpg model. I don't need a power truck, I need a 2.0 liter variable valve, highway truck.

I would love to see Nissan produce a compact truck again. If they could go back to the regular cab hardbody size, that would be great. They need, need, need to include a diesel engine. My 86 and1/2 hardbody 5 speed couldn't get more than 24 mpg downhill in a hurricane. My 98 Frontier automatic never got better than 25. In the time we are living in, manufacurers should be ashamed calling 30 mpg good mileage. I want to see a truck with 40 mpg at the very minimum. It can be small, it can go 0-60 at a snails pace. I am not in that big of a hurry.

after walking threw a car lot to find a small truck to drive and haul dirt bikes with good mpg i decided to find an older truck because these new trucks are too big too expensive and drink too much gas i just bought a 1984 4x4 Nissan 720 and love it if you guys at Nissan could take these small trucks and and the d21 (hard body) design and make them hybrid or small turbo or supercharged engine 200 to 250 hp is plenty enough to turn heads for a compact truck dont make the trucks more powerful at the cost of reliability these older trucks last for ever.
thank you Nissan for bringing back the small cost effective pick up with good fuel mileage its what we all have been looking for.

I,m waiting in line for this (and will believe it when I see it.)My 91 nissan pickup was the best , gutsiest truck I've owned.The Frontier is too big in body and engine and too pimpy looking ! The old hardbodies were just right.Why the hell Toyota , Chevy , Ford , Isuzu and Nissan ditched their compact truck lines for the midsized trucks they now have is beyond comprehension,especially since they were so popular and gas prices were rising to where they are now -Just crazy.If it ain't broke,don't fix it ! Stop pandering to the redneck yahoos who want it bigger and louder.

I will tell you one thing . if you can build a truck and market it like the one I built out of a 1983.5 that got 46 mpg on the highway and 38 mpg in town then you have something that will sell.
All I did was change carb over to a weber and remove the stock rearend and replaced it with a unit out of a 280zx.
this truck would run 105 mph in 3rd gear and would scare you
into slowing down in 5th. (clocked at 138 mph by highway patrol) and he would not give me a ticket because he said the judge would say his radar gun was broken and no way a 720 pickup with a small 2.0L engine could run that fast.
I checked the mileage on this truck more time than I can remember because I could not see how it was so high. but after driving it from tulsa to dallas (nonstop) and then making the trips to work in dallas all week then driving back to atoka before getting gas you do the math. well over 600 miles between fill up on stock tank for a two wheel drive shortbed.

they need to make a small basic truck like the izusu pup or old Mahindra small non turbo diesels in small trucks that can sit two comfortably and remind you that three is a crowed(especially with a sick shift) those small diesels lasted forever) besides the new smog regulations make turbo diesels junk. and reduce fuel economy just set up the diesel right and you get the power in the band you want it without the turbo and you end up with better fuel economy and very little difference in performance.(think of all the old great diesels anyways) 7.3 non turbo international 6.0chevrolet the list goes on with very few turbos.

my old pup would often get 60 mpg diesel stock even when it had 300,000 on it and i think nissan could sell a truck like that all day for 9-14 grand depending on options

I have owned a truck as one of my vehicles for over 40 yrears. In fact, I owned a Datson way back there and drove it into the gound. That said, I have also owned Rangers, and several crew cab Frontiers. I would not like to give up my Frontier LE crew cab. That is the prefect vehicle for my wife and I. I hopw NISSAN does not make a mistake and do away witht he mid side Frontier. That would probably force me to purchase a ford truck.

If they are not going to build their small pick up with at least the option of a 7ft. box with extended cab they shouldn't bother building them at all. This is the most important need in small pick ups and it is totally ignored.
I'm sure this truck would be the best seller.

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