PHOENIX - Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. will use the platform architecture from the 2004 Titan full-sized pickup as the basis for body-on-frame vehicles worldwide.
In using the same platform globally, Nissan will build future Frontier compact pickups, Xterra compact SUVs, Patrol SUVs, and European-market pickups from the Titan architecture.
Nissan now uses two primary body-on-frame platforms, for the Patrol and for compact pickups and SUVs. Some other platforms survive as well, such as for the Nissan pickup sold in Mexico.
The Titan, which goes on sale in the United States this fall, represents the Japanese industry's first real attempt to field a full-sized pickup directly comparable to Big 3 offerings in size and power.
If the architecture works, the cost savings from building variants from similar underpinnings can be substantial.
"The full-sized platform, floor layout, packaging and underfloor will be similar,'' says Larry Dominique, chief truck product specialist for Nissan North America Inc. "They will be appropriately sized for their segments, but it will be based on the full-sized truck."
Nissan sold 155,000 Frontiers and Xterras in the United States in 2002. The company hopes to produce 100,000 Titans annually at its new plant in Canton, Miss.
The Frontier redesign is slated for the 2005 model year in the United States; the Xterra most likely will come for the 2006 model year.
The current-generation Xterra that is debuting in Brazil will have a seven-year cycle. So it will live on, even after the new Titan-based Xterra debuts in the United States and elsewhere, Dominique says.
The Titan platform is flexible. It will allow the pickup to have a solid-axle and leaf-spring rear suspension, yet the Pathfinder Armada SUV that will be derived from it will have a coil-spring independent rear suspension.
Solid-axle suspensions are typically tougher but have cruder components that cost less than independent rear suspensions, which tend to have more sophisticated ride dynamics.
Having similar suspension mounting points for both types of suspensions is not revolutionary, but it adds an engineering challenge in developing a platform.
"We considered coil springs for the Titan, but this was our first shot at a full-sized pickup," Dominique said at a press event at Nissan's Arizona Testing Center. "We needed leaf springs to establish our credibility with known hardware, instead of something relatively exotic like coil springs."
"There were also cost issues and packaging savings of going with leaf springs. With the towing characteristics we wanted, the springs would have had to be very tight," he added.
Also, the frame-rail thicknesses will not be identical for all of the vehicle derivatives, Dominique says.
Nissan is examining further variants of the Titan, such as an entry-level V-6 version and 3/4-ton heavy-duty version. Four-wheel steering also is under study.
"The 3/4-ton is the largest segment with growth potential that we haven't addressed," Dominique says. "But we have made no commitment yet. We have so many programs coming up that we can't staff them fast enough."
Another snag in developing a heavy-duty truck: The lack of a V-8 turbodiesel engine in the Nissan-Renault family.
"The 5.6-liter V-8 is a perfectly fine gas engine for heavy-duty," Dominique says. "But our engine development follows our product schedule, so we need to look at whether it makes sense for Nissan to develop its own turbodiesel or go outside."