CHICAGO -- Nissan's redesigned 2016 Titan pickup that debuted last month at the Detroit auto show drew plenty of comparisons to the Ford F-150. The shape of the grille and headlights, and the dip in the upper edge of the front doors recall styling of the F-150. Fred Diaz, 49, Nissan's senior vice president for U.S. sales and marketing and operations, spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett this month at the Chicago Auto Show.
Q: How did Nissan react to the redesigned Titan's reception by the media and public after the pickup's Detroit debut? Were the F-150 comparisons stinging?
A: Clearly, I read some of what was written about it. Never once did I ever think that vehicle had a close resemblance to the Ford. It never crossed my mind. I never thought of it. I never asked the designers or engineers about it. They never said anything. Maybe there was a designer somewhere that took some inspiration from the Ford. I don't know. That was before me. But I can tell you that I never once uttered the F- word to those guys. You know, "We should make it more Ford-like." I did make some suggestions from a design standpoint that I think made the truck stronger and bolder and gave it a huskier, heavier look than it originally had.
Nissan has a track record for engineering quality. But don't you think truck customers want original styling?
When you have a truck that is as old as ours is -- it's 12 years old -- and we're finally coming to market with the truck, you need something that looks good and makes people proud to be seen in the truck. It cannot look like a wimpy truck. It cannot look like a foreign truck. It's got to look like it's got American bones in it. And you need street credibility. To have a Cummins engine in it gives us that.
Nissan has always said the next Titan will be a light-duty truck. But we learned recently that there will be several Titan models over 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight, which will put the Titan in competition with the Ford Super Duty trucks, GM heavy duties and the Ram 2500 and 3500.
That opens up some interesting issues. For example, Nissan has said that all Titans will have the EPA fuel economy numbers on the window sticker, but trucks exceeding 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight are exempt from EPA fuel economy testing. How will Nissan calculate fuel economy estimates for the heavy-duty Titan?
The test protocol we'll use is the same as for the light-duty truck, the same test qualifiers. We are not trying to hide anything or pull any punches. We want to be transparent about what we're doing here. Because if you are not, you lose credibility, like we saw earlier this year with several manufacturers' methods of calculating the weight of their trucks. You are going to get found out when you do things like that. But because we happen to be by far the lightest in that next class, we believe we will get better towing and hauling capability than what is out there because we have a V-8 diesel Cummins engine. We don't want to invent an all-new class.
So the redesigned Titan will straddle the light- and heavy-duty classes. Who's the customer?
It's for somebody who does some pretty heavy hauling, but on occasion. You've got a lot of guys out there who need that heavy-duty hauling capability, maybe once or twice a month, maybe on the weekend. The rest of the time, they don't need that much capability. So that's the customer we're going after. I'm one of those guys, by the way. I have a tractor, and when I need to take it in for service and maintenance, I have to haul it and tow it. I don't want to be driving the truck that can haul that big tractor for the rest of the time.
Will Nissan build a Titan 2500, since the redesigned model already contains the bones for an official heavy-duty truck?
I can't comment on our future products, intentions or aspirations. But let's see how this truck plays in the market, and then we'll decide what's next.