One of Nissan Motor Co.'s oldest and best-known products, the Pathfinder SUV, is entering a new world this week.
The redesigned Pathfinder, which starts production today, Aug. 30, in Smyrna, Tenn., faces the stiffest competition of its long life.
Nissan has spent $2.4 billion to redesign what it calls its F-Alpha platform, which includes the Pathfinder, Xterra SUV and Frontier pickup.
The automaker also spent $250 million to move Pathfinder production from Japan. Company product planning executives say the Pathfinder is expected to yield more sales.
"We're absolutely looking for a volume lift," says Erich Marx, Nissan North America Inc.'s senior marketing manager.
The vehicle will be sold in North America, Europe, Australia and Brazil. But since the planning for Pathfinder's third generation began in 2000, the market has churned. New competition has emerged from Asian and European brands.
The 2005 Pathfinder's field of competition has grown thick since debuting in 1985, when it faced down just seven direct competitors. Today, it must square off against 38 mid-sized SUVs. All sport wagons and SUVs combined total 70 nameplates.
And the competition is more aggressive. The Chrysler group this month revealed that it intends to offer incentives this fall when it launches its new-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee, one of Pathfinder's top competitors.
"That was a little bit of a curve ball," Marx says. "It's another data point for us to consider. Nissan just doesn't launch new products with incentives."