Stoked by the market frenzy now greeting the return of long-dormant SUVs such as the Ford Bronco and Land Rover Defender, some wishful Nissan dealers are calling for the return of their own long-absent model — the funky Xterra SUV.
And according to dealers, the automaker is now listening.
The pickup-based sport-ute, once referred to as "the car that saved Nissan" for bringing an infusion of sales to the then-struggling brand in 1999, was discontinued after the 2015 model year, a casualty of new safety regulations and a consumer pivot from truck-based utility vehicles to lighter unibody crossovers.
Nissan veered away from the midsize sport-utility market.
But the mood is changing after the segment grew 61 percent in the past decade.
Given the sales success of the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, Nissan is leaving money on the table, said Tyler Slade, operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan Southtowne in suburban Salt Lake City.
"The rugged body-on-frame utility segment is on fire, and we're missing out on key business for the brand," Slade said.
Nissan National Dealer Advisory Board Chairman Scott Smith would like to see the automaker cash in on the current renaissance of iconic models, such as the Bronco and the Defender.
"Other than the Z car in 1970, the Xterra was the best launch we've ever had," Smith, president of Smith Automotive Group near Atlanta, told Automotive News. "It would be great if Nissan would recognize that the Xterra should come back."