Nissan is considering a Nismo version of the next-generation Frontier that would give the brand a competitor to Toyota's Tacoma TRD Pro pickup.
According to sources familiar with Nissan's product plans, Nissan sees a Nismo Frontier as a way to tap into the wave of lifestyle pickup buyers. The off-roader could rekindle some excitement in the Nissan brand and help attract younger, higher-income truck customers.
Nissan declined to confirm the plan or comment on its future products.
The redesigned Frontier will be the first major change for the pickup in nearly 16 years.
A Nismo Frontier would not be unprecedented. Nissan launched a similar model in the mid-2000s.
That product was powered by a V-6 engine and sported such components as off-road-tuned Bilstein performance shocks, skid plates, front fog lamps, 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and an electronic locking rear differential.
Previously, Nissan rolled out the Nismo performance package for the Sentra compact sedan, 370Z and GT-R sports cars and the Juke compact crossover.
A Nismo Frontier also could give retailers a profit engine.
While options on base-model pickups typically command profit margins of 25 to 30 percent, profits on off-road performance vehicle parts might exceed 50 percent, said Tyson Jominy, vice president of the Power Information Network at J.D. Power.
"These are the new halo vehicles," he said. "This is what is selling."
Modern pickups have evolved from bare-bones workhorses to roomy, creature-comfort-packed rides, he said.
"Pickups these days can do it all," Jominy said. "Most have interior space comparable to at least an SUV."