Kelsey Mays, Cars.com
Nissan's full-size pickup truck, the Titan, is a bit player if there ever was one. Last year, Nissan sold just 21,576 Titans. That's far below the 83,848 trucks sold in 2004, the Titan's first full year on the market. The Chevrolet Avalanche — a crew-cab pickup that GM markets to lifestyle buyers — outsold the Titan last year, and it's on its way out.
But there's an opportunity yet. The housing-construction market is on a slow but steady rebound, with new-home starts seeing some of their highest levels since mid-2008. Pickup sales have about a 95% correlation to the housing market, Citi investment analyst Itay Michaeli told us. "We think we are on the cusp of a major unlocking of pent-up demand" for the segment, Michaeli said at a Society of Automotive Analysts conference on the eve of the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Even the bit players won't be left out.
Jose Munoz, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Americas, spoke at a media roundtable Monday at the auto show.
"We understand that it is very important" to remain in the segment, Munoz said. "Full-size is where the potential is."
"It is going to be strong; we are going to be in that segment," he added. "We'll give you a little bit more details on this in the months to come," but it will come "at a little bit later stage" than GM's launch of the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
It's safe to say Nissan's current entry is stale. The Titan came in fourth out of five trucks in our $30,000 Shootout two years ago, and the one truck that placed worse — the Chevrolet Silverado — has been completely redesigned.
Can Nissan make inroads and ride the construction wave?
"It's pretty tough" for the major Japan-based players — Nissan and Toyota — to make inroads," Citi's Michaeli said. "There's a lot of loyalty in that segment."
Still, the automaker's NV full-size van has the roots for a next-gen, full-size pickup, with the potential to go HD. Stay tuned, and we'll let you know when Munoz shares more.