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Aussie case for Nissan Titan ‘a challenge’

Ripe one: Nissan Australia sees the Titan pick-up as a perfect addition to its product line-up, but the costs involved make the business case “a challenge” according to global LCV chief Ashwani Gupta.

Nissan Australia a lone voice among right-hook markets pushing for Titan pick-up

Nissan logo26 Feb 2018

By TERRY MARTIN

NISSAN Australia is continuing to push the case for the Titan full-size pick-up truck to be sold in this market, however the Japanese manufacturer’s global LCV chief Ashwani Gupta now admits it will be “a challenge” to bring it Down Under.

Mr Gupta told Australian journalists at the Tokyo motor show last October that the company was considering a variety of countries – including Australia – for the “global application” of the American-built Titan.

But at the launch of the Navara Series III outside Melbourne last week, Mr Gupta cited several barriers to entry for the Titan in Australia and New Zealand, including the small anticipated sales volume, costs involved in right-hand-drive conversion and the fact that the Antipodes is paired with the UK and Thailand which “are not showing any appetite for full-size pick-up”.

“When it comes to Australia … normally it is clubbed with the UK and Thailand and because UK and Thailand still are not showing any appetite for full-size pick-up, it will be challenging,” he said.

“Now, this challenge – when and how it is realised – I think only time can tell, and when it is done I will be the first one to pick up the phone and call you.”

 center imageLeft: LCV chief Ashwani Gupta

Nissan Australia’s leadership team, led by managing director Stephen Lester, is pushing to offer the Titan alongside Navara in showrooms, presenting a case last week to Mr Ashwani and Nissan’s global LCV chief product specialist Pedro de Anda for its potential launch here.

“Obviously, we would support Titan in the market,” Mr Lester said.

“Certainly, coming from North America, where that is a ‘normal’ truck size, let’s say, segment, it’s surprising here not to see as many – whether it’s from our brand or from others.

“But I think, again, this is ripe for the opportunity.”

A Canadian who took the reins at Nissan Australia last September, Mr Lester said “anything’s possible” when asked by GoAuto whether he could look to an independent conversion specialist such as American Special Vehicles – a joint venture between Walkinshaw Group and Ateco Automotive which already converts the Ram 2500/3500 and will soon roll out the Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 – rather than rely on retooling at the sole Titan production facility in Canton, Mississippi.

“Anything’s possible but you have to work it out and they (head office) would have to understand and find the right partner – and we’re nowhere near having that level of trust, commitment, understanding of who could really do that,” he said.

Mr Gupta said the fact that Titan was only built in the US was a complicating factor for the Australian submission, unlike Navara which is manufactured in five countries and therefore allows for market-specific production.

“After the US, where we see the full-size pick-up market will grow is obviously GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council countries/Middle East) – very similar driving needs, very similar customer expectations and so on,” he said.

But when it comes to right-hook markets, Nissan Australia’s lone voice is a problem – particularly when sales in the US are booming.

“There is nothing which we cannot do from a technological point of view – this is clear. The question comes: When will we be able to do it?” Mr Gupta said.

“We don’t need to make big money but at least we should be break even … so (that) from a business point of view it makes sense.

“The challenge which we are facing in doing the study for Australia – of course, we are doing the study globally – is Thailand, unfortunately, is not mature to accept full-size pick-up and not in the UK also.

“So Australia is leading in customer aspiration, which we clearly see is going to evolve, but we are studying it and we will come back when we are ready.”

In the US, the Titan’s powertrain options include a 291kW/534Nm 5.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine (driving through a seven-speed automatic gearbox) or a Cummins-sourced 231kW/752Nm 5.0-litre turbo-diesel bent-eight that combines with a six-speed auto.

It is sold in single, king and crew cab body styles, built on either a standard separate chassis or with a longer and heavier-duty ‘XD’ frame.

The XD diesel crew cab is built on a 3850mm wheelbase and measures 6165mm in overall length, 2050mm in width and 2000m in height.

The bed length on the diesel dual cab is still 2000mm long, towing capacity around 5600kg (depending on the variant and towing set-up) and payload around the 1000kg mark.

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