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Next Nissan Navara to step up

Only way is up: The recently revealed N-Trek Warrior currently sits atop the Navara range, but Nissan is planning a new flagship ute.

Australia drives top-end Navara development as Nissan addresses existing weaknesses

28 Oct 2019

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in TOKYO

NISSAN has acknowledged that it misread the demand for high-end versions of the one-tonne pick-up truck segment in Australia in the past but has promised to address that moving forward, with the just-announced N-Trek Warrior being just the beginning.

 

Speaking to the Australian media at the Tokyo Motor Show last week, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said that other, greater derivatives are planned for the Navara.

 

“(Moving on from) the launch for Warrior, we would look at other projects,” he said. “There's certainly a couple of things in the background that are in the works. You can guess at what those are and there wouldn't be any surprise and you probably wouldn't be that far off base (if you speculated something beyond Warrior to beat the Raptor).”

 

Nissan’s global head of Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), Francois Bailly, said that while he refused to reveal if V6 engines are returning to the Navara, meeting Australian consumers’ needs with the right type of vehicle is now a priority.

 

“The Raptor is very interesting pick-up truck and a significant success in Australia, but not just in Australia, and we are looking at those trends very precisely,” he said.

 

“Five years ago, when I came from the US market to this global job, I had a big learning about Australian customers, specifically how knowledgeable and highly demanding they are, and so in Australia we see very strong demand for the top end with models like the Raptor.

 

“(But on the subject of introducing a V6), I am not prepared to comment at this stage.”   

 

Mr Lester added that to succeed against the likes of the Ranger Raptor, future Navaras may have to adopt larger engines than the current 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesels on offer to convey a stronger performance image. The most powerful version still only delivers 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, against the Raptor’s 157kW/500Nm and V6-powered Mercedes-Benz X350d’s 190kW/550Nm.

 

“With the old D40 Navara, we had the V6 diesel, which we unfortunately haven’t had in the D23. But we are working to find a solution,” he said.

 

Whether Nissan returns to a V6 in either petrol or diesel configurations, or pushes forward with an evolution of the four-cylinder engine but with hybrid/electrification, is not known, but the latter is an option that is being explored.

 

According to Mr Bailly, Nissan already offers full-electric LCVs, such as the e-NV200 van since 2014, so there is a precedent for the company to extend that into other types of vehicles within his jurisdiction. 

 

“Today we have examples like the e-NV200 small van out of Barcelona,” he said. “Electrification of the line-up will continue; we are looking at different technologies from full EV to plug-in hybrid, hybrid and so-on. But we have not decided which technology we pick.

 

“But it is really critical what we learn from different markets. Especially with pick-up trucks, we don’t believe the customers will tolerate any compromise in terms of towing, payload, range. We must supply the same capabilities as (an internal-combustion engine version).

 

“Electrification is the future, but how it will manifest we haven’t yet decided. This is where we are going, as an industry.”

 

Mr Bailly remained elusive as to whether Alliance partner Mitsubishi might offer its plug-in hybrid electrification technology for the Navara, since the latter is leading development of the next all-new version due sometime before 2025.  

 

“Mitsubishi has a history like Nissan with a very strong heritage of building pick-up trucks, and we are working with them… I’m not ready yet to share with you any specific technology to be introduced,” he said. “But the Australian, Thailand, Philippines and other ASEAN customers are at the heart of shaping the next-generation Navara.”

 

Mr Lester is adamant that the continuous upgrading of the current D23 Navara since it launched in Australia during 2015 is proof that Nissan management is prepared to listen and act on particular market needs.

 

“A really good example is the Warrior,” he said. “Francois’ team has been instrumental at helping bringing this product to life, and for the Australian market, speaks to the specific needs we see for those consumers. And we’re confident we’ll continue to get that support in the future. 

 

“We didn’t have something at the top end of the market. With Warrior, we do. It builds confidence. With Warrior, we've taken a really good step in that direction of being able to deliver something based on what we currently have.

 

“We have had really valuable experience of support with Japan because we have used our local expertise. The idea of manufacturing or supporting further development outside of Japan – the rigour we go through, from an accessories standpoint. We're building all the accessories kit locally and in a very speedy timeline; now this really demonstrates the quality of workmanship, the quality of craftsmanship, engineering execution that went into doing it here locally builds confidence.

 

“And hopefully the next time we bring in a project over the finish line that confidence is already there and (Nissan) says, ‘Yep, it’s good’.”


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