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Aussie ingenuity inspires Nissan Navara

Safe bet: Nissan has clocked up one million kilometres of real world testing in the new-gen Navara to ensure the safety and quality of the vehicle.

Nissan engineering chief cites locally developed Ford Ranger as benchmark for Navara

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Nissan logo30 Jul 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN’S next-generation Navara workhorse was benchmarked against Ford’s locally designed and engineered Ranger utility for driveability, ride, refinement and ruggedness, according to Nissan’s engineering chief.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the D23 series Navara in Thailand this week, Nissan Motor Company chief vehicle engineer for Light Commercial Vehicles, Takashi Fukui, admitted that the Australian engineered one-tonne truck is his personal favourite for dynamic feel and ride comfort, until now.

“I think the Ford Ranger is very good,” he said. “The competition is strong… but we will beat them.”

The 30-year chassis engineer – who is also responsible for the development of the Y62 Patrol – revealed that he visited Australia recently to assess how the Navara’s rivals performed in local conditions.

Specifically he wanted to see how the nine-year old, outgoing D40 Navara still stacked up against the Ranger, as well as the Isuzu D-Max, Toyota HiLux and Holden Colorado.

Mr Fukui also expressed admiration for the Volkswagen Amarok, adding that the German car-maker should be pleased considering it was their first one-tonne truck.

“I am also impressed with the Amarok,” he said.

However, Mr Fukui said that his team’s efforts with the new-generation Navara have eclipsed the best that the rest of the world can offer, coming off three intensive years of research and development.

A particular emphasis was put on addressing the D40’s highly publicised quality issues, which among other problems, led to a shocking “extremely poor” one-star strike-through rating by the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).

This was due to the collapse of a chassis rail, leading Euro NCAP to declare an unacceptable level of passenger compartment intrusion.

The outcome forced Nissan to reprogram the airbag software to achieve a slightly better result of three stars, which is still a poor performance compared to the five stars achieved by the Ranger.

It was only in the beginning of 2012 that Nissan finally strengthened the occupant cell sufficiently for the D40 to warrant a four-star rating.

Further damage to the current Navara’s quality reputation occurred in April 2013 when some 40,000 D40s were recalled due to cracked or bent chassis rails.

To avoid a similar crash-test disaster, the new Navara has undergone over 40,000 quality audit programs, as part of a research and development shakedown that saw prototypes accumulate over one million kilometres of real-world testing in Asia, The Americas and Europe.

Unlike the D40, which was initially built only in Spain before also migrating to North America (as the Frontier) as well as Thailand from 2008, the newcomer is only manufactured in Thailand for the time being.

It replaces both the D40 and the smaller D22 that dates back to 1996.

Nissan is expected to announce production plans for Mexico and possibly Brazil in the near future.

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Navara pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.