LOS ANGELES -- Nissan and Honda, too, have joined the big-pickup fray, with mixed results.
The Nissan Titan and Honda Ridgeline are selling mostly to customers loyal to Asian brands, although the Titan has started winning over some Big 3 truckers.
After projecting volume of about 100,000 units, Nissan sold about 92,000 full-sized Titan pickups last year. This year's estimate is between 85,000 and 90,000 units.
Honda launched its pricey, smaller Ridgeline into the heat of last summer's incentive war. After falling shy of sales projections, the Ridgeline has recovered somewhat.
About one-quarter of trade-ins for Titans are domestic full-sized trucks, said Gene Brown, senior manager for truck model line marketing for Nissan North America Inc.
"Titan has one of the highest conquest percentages of any Nissan model ever," Brown said. "We would be happy to take more (conquests), but we are at least equal to expectations."
The conquest figure could grow once Nissan starts selling a V-6 model, as well as a heavy-duty version arriving in 2007 or 2008 with a load-hauling diesel engine.
Although Power Information Network data show Titan transaction prices as lower than those of the competition, Brown says Nissan's per-vehicle incentives costs for the Titan also are lower.
"We're not going to buy share," Brown says. "We're not going to break the bank to get volume."
The Ridgeline, though smaller than a traditional full-sized truck, is priced higher than most big trucks. Its base price is $28,250, including freight.
Early Ridgeline sales were almost entirely to Honda loyalists, says Tom Peyton, Honda Division marketing manager. But Hondaphiles now account for fewer than one-third of Ridgeline sales, the company says.
Honda is aiming for upscale buyers. Most conquests are young families coming out of an SUV or a minivan, Peyton said.
Peyton says Ridgeline sales are trending upward. Launching the pickup when the domestic brands were in an incentive war was difficult for Honda, which prides itself on its lack of incentive spending. Through most of 2005, Ridgeline sales were mired well below 4,000 units a month. But in October, Ridgeline sales began trending upward, with 6,589 sold in January.
"You really had to want our truck," Peyton says. "Being named North American Truck of the Year (by a jury of journalists at the North American International Auto Show) gave some credibility to it, and there's some momentum.
"Going after Ford or Chevy is not my primary focus."
You may e-mail Mark Rechtin at [email protected]