LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Nissan has a new strategy for scratching out a piece of Detroit's full-size pickup market: It will stop chasing cowboys.
And it will instead think about Roman gladiators, Spartacus, NFL football players, and maybe even flesh-eating zombies.
Not truck-driving zombies. But drooling zombies lumbering up your street as you and your family speed away to safety in your dependable Cummins V-8 diesel-powered new-generation 2016 Nissan Titan.
"We actually pitched that to our executives," muses Diane Allen, the woman who managed the new Titan design project here at the automaker's increasingly busy vehicle studio amid Southern California's palm trees.
"You can't stop these guys from coming up with those ideas," she says, pointing to an artist's sketch of the next Titan being accosted by the walking dead. "The idea was that this truck will save your family and keep you safe from zombies. It's the survivalist thing."
The undead probably will not, by themselves, ignite Titan pickup sales, which have been abysmal of late. But the fleeting image could eventually surface in the truck's future marketing. More important, it is part of a subtle but significant rethinking of a critical American product segment in which Nissan has been frustrated and languishing for a decade.
"We're not doing cowboy," Allen says.
Instead, she explains, Nissan is reaching for a clear spot in the market Not really "Texan" in its design or marketing. Not an attempt to look like a miniature commercial heavy truck, like a Mack or a Peterbilt. And in terms of performance, not a colossus on the construction site.
Allen says the Titan will be a rugged light pickup -- almost a foot longer in its wheelbase than the outgoing Titan -- and still a bona fide work truck capable of satisfying most full-size truck shoppers and fleet buyers.
But Nissan will opt out of the heavy-duty maximum specs race, aiming for pricing and capabilities between most light-duties and ultra-powerful but high-priced heavy-duties that the Detroit 3 sell.