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Nissan studies Ranger Raptor rival

Next step: Nissan is now studying the case to build a high-performance version of its Navara ute, and will look to exploit existing partnerships with the likes of Daimler, Renault and Mitsubishi.

Global LCV boss reveals ‘Australian voice’ behind study to build hi-po Navara ute

Nissan logo22 Feb 2018

NISSAN Motor Corporation’s global light-commercial vehicles chief is studying the potential for a high-performance sports version of the Navara one-tonne utility, with a Daimler-sourced V6 diesel engine on the table and chassis development from an in-house alliance partner such as Nismo or Renault Sport.

In Australia this week for the launch of the Series III Nissan Navara, the Japanese manufacturer’s senior vice-president of LCV, Ashwani Gupta, told GoAuto that creating a high-performance version of the Navara along the same lines as Ford’s forthcoming new Ranger Raptor was now under study, following meetings with executives from Nissan Australia who were the driving force behind the project.

“If you would have asked me this question yesterday, I would have said that this was not in our priority. But if you’re asking this question today, I would say that this is an opportunity which we would like to study,” he said.

“The key factor to go to study the sports utility, or high-end sports series, is only the powertrain.

“If we take Navara – we have ‘tough’ and ‘smart’ – we have both – and now if we need to upgrade tough and smart we can do it very easily to the ‘sports’ grade.

"But the most important thing is which powertrain we adopt to get to that. That is the study which we need to do.”

Asked whether Nissan could leverage its partnership with Daimler and use the 190kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel used in the Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class, just as Daimler uses Nissan’s four-cylinder engines on lower-series variants, Mr Gupta told GoAuto: “We have every technology to do that. The question is, we study, and if it makes sense for the customer and for the business, we will do it.

“We have not yet checked it (Daimler V6 diesel), but for sure, from today, we will study that: what kind of specification we need for the high-end frame-based SUVs and pick-ups.”

Mr Gupta said the company could easily tap into in-house performance partners such as Nismo – or those from alliance partners Renault (Renault Sport) or even Mitsubishi (Ralliart) – for chassis development rather than outsourcing to a specialist provider.

“We have every technology to do it by ourselves. We have Nismo, we have Renault Sport,” he said.

“I think it is more a question of, as I said: First of all, the customer should exist, which I think is evolving and number two is, what is the cost of technology and time to market. And I think these are the two things which will be answered during the study.”

In terms of whether all alliance partners stood to benefit from a sports-truck, Raptor-style vehicle – Renault has the Navara-based Alaskan, and Mitsubishi has Triton, which Mr Gupta confirmed will migrate to the same basic underpinnings as Navara/Alaskan in its next generation – the answer was also in the affirmative.

“What we have in the alliance is, obviously, we benefit from each other – as far as the technology is concerned, as far as the platform is concerned,” he said.

“On the brand side, we have distinctive brands and three distinctive PMAs (prime market areas) … So obviously if Mitsubishi brand customer is asking for it, we will consolidate the request if Renault is asking for it, we will consolidate the request.

“Obviously the synergies between the three brands are important to make the cost of the technology more optimised.”

Mr Gupta confirmed that feedback from the Australian market, which in the past couple of years has become a prominent voice guiding vehicle development (hence the introduction of a Series III Navara within three years of the NP300 launch here), had guided the sports truck plan.

“The transformation which we are seeing today in the one-tonne pick-up market is driven by Australian voice,” he said.

Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said the potential for developing a sports version of Navara was clear.

“When you start to see the volume and the change and how the market has really evolved here and how quickly it is evolving, you can really see the potential in this range,” he said.

“And to the credit of some other brands, they have snapped that up, and as MD of Nissan Australia I don’t want to miss any opportunities.

“So it behoves me, and the rest of the team, to make sure that we exploit and exploit those opportunities to the best of our ability.

“As a true car guy, my imagination is limitless with what I would like to see.

It’s up to individuals like Ashwani – and up to us to create business cases – that make that vision really possible.”

As well as the Ranger Raptor, higher-performance flagship mid-size pick-ups include the Volkswagen Amarok V6, forthcoming V6-powered X-Class and the HSV/Holden Colorado SportsCat, although the latter trades on chassis development rather than powertrain.

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