Nissan North America is exploring options in case Chrysler Group's new Fiat leadership decides not to go ahead with a deal to build Nissan Titan pickups off the full-sized Dodge Ram pickup in 2011.
"My team is spending a lot of time looking at different scenarios of what we can do," says Larry Dominique, Nissan North America's vice president of product planning and the man who led the original Titan project early in this decade.
Nissan is approaching other automakers to see whether they would be willing to build the next Titan. If it can't line up another partner, Nissan could refresh the Titan and continue making it in-house instead of ceasing production as planned in 2011, Dominique says.
Until six months ago, Nissan was rolling toward a redesigned 2012 Titan from Chrysler's truck assembly lines in Saltillo, Mexico. Nissan engineers created a Nissan-only design for a cab, body and interior.
Chrysler's collapse put the Nissan product in limbo.
If it finds a different partner, Nissan will need 18 to 24 months to turn out a new Titan, says Michael Robinet, vice president of global forecasting for CSM Worldwide in suburban Detroit.
"Nissan is in a precarious position, as their options are few," Robinet says. He notes that pickup leaders General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. have little motivation to help Nissan.
As for Toyota Motor Corp., the only other maker of full-sized pickups, Robinet says, "I doubt sharing a full-sized pickup with Nissan is in their corporate DNA.
"Whatever is decided, time is ticking."