There appears to be genuine enthusiasm behind the 2022 Nissan Frontier. That’s more than could be said about the full-size Titan, which has somehow continued to languish as an also-ran in a segment that is absolutely booming.
Given that, it stands to reason Nissan may be considering expanding its pickup line in the opposite direction, with a more compact model designed to slot under the Frontier according to Automotive News.
The report cites people “familiar with the matter” and states merely that the Japanese carmaker is “studying” the possibility. It also points to the hype behind the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz to suggest that Nissan might be eyeing a slice of the compact truck pie. And Automotive News reckons this mystery small pickup should be electric, because nobody else is doing that yet. So why shouldn’t Nissan be the first?
It’s not a bad idea, though that’s all it is as the moment. If Nissan is determined to continue doing trucks, it’d best find a way to differentiate its offerings lest it continue to fade in mindshare. The F-150 Lightning is huge and expensive (if you want one with any options whatsoever) and there’s lots of space below it for a smaller EV pickup to play.
“There’s all kinds of things under discussion,” Wheeler told Automotive News. “I don’t know that there is any serious discussion there at this point.”
Even so, Wheeler foreshadowed prospects for electrified Nissan pickups.
“I could see that coming,” Wheeler said of an electric powertrain. “The pickup area is kind of interesting. There will be a consumer that’s looking more for a lifestyle vehicle that they can put all their gear in and go off-roading.”
The idea of a compact, electric Nissan pickup seems like one of those musings that makes beautiful sense scrawled on a napkin but doesn’t hold up in reality. (I’m imagining a crude sketch of a tiny truck + lightning zaps = $$$.) The margins on such a vehicle could be prohibitively small, for one.
Looking back at the Maverick, out of the gate everyone seemed jazzed about it being a $20K pickup with a hybrid drivetrain returning 40 MPG. But Ford evidently expects to sell more of the pricier, thirstier Ecoboost model, and won’t even stock the hybrids on dealer lots. It’s almost like there’s a disconnect between what industry insiders think people want and what people actually want, or at least what manufacturers believe they can shift. Imagine that!
Also, Nissan’s got bigger fish to fry at the moment. The Leaf is another also-ran in its own segment despite being around longer than any other EV, and right now, crossovers have the greatest mass appeal. Nissan needs the Ariya as soon as it can get it, to help it pivot toward being a smaller but more profitable company that doesn’t feel like it’s coasting on decade-old products. Once that’s in motion, maybe the sub-Frontier EV will feel like more than a pipe dream.