Two concept vehicles unveiled by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. hint that product again could be king at the struggling company.
The Sport-Utility Truck, or SUT, and the Z-car concepts both have a strong possibility of being produced if public and media reaction shows there is a market for them.
Given the green light, development time to Job 1 for the SUT would be 18 to 20 months, while the Z car would take a while longer, said Jack Collins, Nissan Division director of product strategy. 'Nissan had solid products in our core segments, but we drifted away from our more emotionally appealing products that drove the traffic,' he said.
'We need to put that emotional appeal back in the product lineup, but we also have work to do elsewhere in marketing and taking care of the customer at the dealership.'
While most of the automotive media are sports-caraholics who wish Nissan would bring the Z car over the SUT, Collins said that the SUT might have more potential to benefit Nissan's brand image with the truck-crazed public.
The SUT is 'a collision where the fusion is greater than the sum of its parts,' said Jerry Hirshberg, president of Nissan Design International.
Nissan research showed that truck owners use their vehicle beds only 25 percent of the time and then mostly use only 20 percent of the space. Only a couple of times a year do they use the entire bed. But research also showed that sport-utility owners like to keep the interiors of their vehicles clean.
So Nissan created a four-door, sport-utility cabin that has a separate abbreviated bed, with a rear door that swings open to accept that rare 4x8 sheet of plywood or palm tree. The concept is based on the Frontier platform.
As for the Z car, much more is in doubt, aside from a requirement that a production version be priced under $25,000. Although the running prototype was from a rear-drive four-cylinder platform, Nissan is mulling whether a production model would have a four- or six-cylinder powerplant, Hirshberg said.