Nissan Has Titanic Truck Quest

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Nissan executives are hoping to attract thousands of the new truck guys that have helped transform the truck market over the past decade with its new full-size pickup, the Titan.
Up until now, the pickup market has been ruled by General Motors, Ford Motor Co., and the Chrysler Group and Toyota, which has succeeded in carving out a relatively small piece of the market for itself.

Larry Dominique, the chief product specialist for the Titan and Pathfinder Armada, said last week that market is showing signs of maturing but still doubled in size during the 1990s to around 2.3 million units annually.

The size of the market represents a huge opportunity for any manufacturer, Dominique noted.

Market halved

Moreover, the market is in transition, divided between the work truck buyers and the new truck buyers who helped more than double sales in the segment over the past decade.
The work truck buyers tend to very loyal to the GM, Ford, and Dodge brands. Many of them live in rural areas and aren't particularly impressed with new technology.

Consequently, Nissan will concentrate on reaching the "new truck guys," who appear to be more open-minded and more willing to try new brands. The new trucks guys may already have an import vehicle, Dominique added.

The new truck guys also tend to live in neighborhoods near major metropolitan areas. They also tend to be a bit younger, less "blue-collar," more affluent and better educated than Ford, GM, and Dodge loyalists, Nissan representatives said.

New truck guys don't use their trucks primarily for work. Instead, the trucks are considered vehicles and used for their special interests, Dominique said. "They are active and engaged and the work hard and play hard," Dominique noted, and they like "serious toys." They also tend to own motorcycles, snowmobiles and or boats, Nissan's research suggested.

To make sure the Titan was what the new trucks guys wanted, Nissan spent more than $2 million on surveying consumer and dealers from coast to coast. The objective was to find out what these suburban buyers would most like to see in a new truck.

The result was a truck with more interior volume in the cab than the new Ford F-150, class leading towing capacity, and a powerful 5.6-liter engine.

The other unique selling points on the Titan include side impact airbags and a locked storage space for storing hidden cargo.

Among the options are DVD-based navigation system that is regarded as among the best in the industry and a unique multi-track system that allows the owner to secure different kinds of cargo in the bed, Nissan representatives noted.

Carving out a niche

Dominique said Nissan's objective isn't necessarily to beat the domestics but to carve out a unique niche for Nissan in a very healthy market.

The sales target for the Titan is 100,000 units annually although the new Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Miss. will have the capacity to build additional units, Jed Connelly, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America Inc., said.

Nissan is confident the Titan's size power, style and innovations will help establish the truck’s credibility with buyers, he said.

Connelly also said the launch of the Titan will give Nissan's sales a real boost during in the coming months.

Nissan sales are up 1.7 percent through the end of July. However, the company's sales will accelerate in the next few months as the new Quest, Pathfinder Armada, and Titan reach the market, Connelly predicted.

In all Nissan plans to launch six new products in the current fiscal year, Connelly noted, and is targeting sales 300,000 units annually by 2005.

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