Nissan Execs Talk Next Frontier Pickup, Global Truck Strategy

December 04, 2018 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Sitting in the courtyard of a hotel designed to resemble an 18th-century Moroccan citadel, Randy Parker wants to brag about Nissan’s trucks.

Parker runs the automaker’s light commercial vehicle business – read trucks and SUVs – from Yokohama, Japan, but was at this remote Erfoud, Morocco, resort near the Algerian border to demonstrate that Nissan’s vehicles can go just about anywhere.

Parker and Pedro Deanda, Nissan’s chief product specialist for vehicle mounted on traditional chassis, hosted a small group of automotive journalists on an off-roading caravan through the Sahara desert.

The group tested vehicles that included the Nissan Titan U.S. pickup, the Chinese Terra SUV, the global Navara midsize pickup and Patrol SUVs climbing sand dunes, fording rushing wadis – ravines – and jamming across rock-strewn dirt tracks.

The vehicles performed well, with the Navara and Terra outshining their U.S. Frontier and Pathfinder counterparts.

Nissan has plans for pushing its pickups into the U.S., Europe and China. (Photo: Nissan)

Nissan wants to grow its business to sales of more than 1 million such vehicles globally annually, up from about 908,000 now. Parker and Deandra are responsible for executing that strategy. Trucks.com sat down with the pair to pry into their plans for the next Nissan Frontier midsize pickup truck in the U.S. and discuss the automaker’s global strategy. Here’s an edited version of that conversation.

How are you doing globally?

Parker: We’ve tripled our sales of light commercial vehicles over the past couple of years. And we’ve tripled our profit because of the growth in the market. It’s been really, really healthy for us.

Where do you see growth to cross that 1 million vehicle sales hurdle?

Parker: What are the markets that we’re trying to push? Obviously, the U.S. with Titan is a big market for us. Europe with vans is big. And China, right now, from a light commercial vehicle perspective, is another big market for us. It’s a very, very profitable business for us. The only shortfall that we have right now is basically India. We’re in India, but not from an LCV perspective. So that’s probably the next frontier for us.

A Nissan Titan makes its way through the Sahara desert. (Photo: Nissan)

In full-size trucks in the U.S., you are last in the market. What are your plans?

Parker: Obviously, we always would like to do better. But our goal is not to compare ourselves to the domestics or try and beat the domestics. Ours can do anything that the other trucks in the market can do. But we’re not trying to out-duel, say, Chevy or Ford or Ram in that regard. It’s not like we’re trying to race to a finish line. We want to provide a very, very unique experience for our customers, and at the same time, provide them an opportunity to have confidence in the vehicle, to let them go and explore. That’s one of the reasons why we like bringing people to events like this.

But can you grow U.S. sales much beyond where you’re at today?

Parker: Absolutely. We have is to create more awareness around our pickup truck. We’re still a big car company learning how to sell trucks and SUVs in the U.S. marketplace. The biggest opportunity we have is to get our story out to the consumers to let them know that we do have a very, very authentic pickup truck in the market. If they’re looking for an alternative, something different, we’re the brand to check out.

When you put Titan side by side next to the Silverado or next to the Ford F-150, our car is very, very bold. I mean, it’s in your face, you know? So I think from a design perspective, we’ve got something that’s very unique in the marketplace.

Nearly 14 years after its launch, the Frontier no longer commands as big a share of the U.S. midsize pickup truck market. What’s the plan?

Deanda: Actually, the sales are recently growing. It’s quite impressive after so many years in the market, the Frontier still selling quite well. There’s a new Frontier coming. I can’t tell you the exact date, but we’re working, and it will come.

Will it contain any of the technologies or componentry that we saw with global vehicles here?

Deanda: Yes. For sure. We have the Nissan Intelligent Mobility (automated driver assistance technology) that you can find in many vehicles that Nissan sells now. It is coming to our trucks as well, and the Frontier will have it.

Read next: What Do You Get in the Frontier, the Least-Expensive Pickup?

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