By Chad Kirchner
In the world of automobiles, pickup trucks are some of the most interesting vehicles to talk about. Unlike sports car shoppers, one truck buyer's needs can be quite different than another buyer's. Yes, it's the same product, but it's likely to get used in many ways.
To help automotive journalists better understand how those who love fishing use pickup trucks, Nissan invited media members to go deep-sea fishing with some influential individuals in the fishing industry.
In a nutshell, word-of-mouth carries more weight with anglers than you'd expect, not unlike pickup buyers. It's clear that's why Nissan is putting its latest project, the Titan Surfcamp (see our top five Surfcamp features article), in front of a captive fishing audience.
Since we were in the half-ton Nissan Titan, I asked why he chose the Tundra. "It's what everyone has," he replied. Toyota is a huge sponsor in the industry and a sponsor of Bassmaster fishing tournaments. Combined with a reputation of reliability, Toyota pickups seem to dominate the space.
These professional anglers tow regularly, but don't need the capacity of a heavy-duty pickup because boat trailers are usually fairly light. However, professional anglers tend to tow a lot of miles in the course of a year. For some on this trip, 10,000 miles a month isn't unheard of. One angler we spoke with has nearly 400,000 miles on his Toyota Highlander hybrid, which is the most we've ever heard of.
Reliability is the keyword we kept hearing from attendees.
Charter Owner Weighs In
The day we went out fishing, our guide and boat captain Brian Williamson of Vero Tackle & Marina provided some insight into the business of chartering boats for deep-sea fishing.
"Winter months I'm working every day," he said. "I can have up to seven boats out at a time."
He currently owns a heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado diesel, which has been decent to him. "You can't go wrong with the Allison transmission," he said, although he has had some issues with the front end, needing to replace it several times.
But why did he go with the Silverado? "I wanted a Super Duty," he explained, "but the issues with the 6.0-liter Power Stroke turbos held me back."
While modern Super Duty Fords don't have those issues, it's still a concern among people who don't follow the auto industry closely but who have been burned or know someone who has.
While there is always bragging about who has the best boat — Williamson has a custom-built Islamorda Boatworks vessel that boasts a 300-horsepower, four-stroke supercharged Mercury motor — most of the guides he knows view a pickup truck as a tool to get their boats on the water and to put money in their pockets.
Nissan Sets the Hook
Nissan put some of these folks in new Titan half-ton pickups to check out the technology and to highlight Nissan's best-in-class warranty. While many readers might not need a five-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, these folks all seemed to be onboard with the idea.
Our fishing adventure coincided with the recent International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades Show in Orlando. This industry-only event allows manufacturers to show off their goods to professionals from around the country. Nissan was there to show off its all-new Surfcamp Titan concept project truck. Based on the heavier-duty Titan XD with the Cummins diesel engine, the Surfcamp uses regular off-the-shelf outdoor and fishing accessories to construct the ultimate beach-fishing rig.
Apart from a custom fishing rod holder and the vehicle wrap, everything seen on the Surfcamp can be purchased for your own rig, all the way down to the Freespirit Recreation Elite Series automatic tent.
Nissan's presence at ICAST goes back to our earlier point of visibility and word-of-mouth. While the fishing industry might be dominated by Toyota pickups, Nissan was the only manufacturer to display a vehicle at the ICAST show. It also was the only manufacturer that brought a concept and showed visitors how the products people sell at the show can fit on their vehicle. Just like how going fishing or hunting helped journalists better understand how truck buyers use their vehicles, these concept trucks can show potential buyers that Nissan pickups can play ball, too.
It also demonstrated how people outside of the auto industry view the importance of new technology. For example, Jen Ripple, editor-in-chief of DUN Magazine and an advocate for women in fly fishing, was impressed with the backup and 360-degree cameras on the Titan Pro-4X. Tech that makes launching a boat easier makes it less intimidating for new owners — men and women alike — and makes the sport more accessible and safer.
Ripple said she recently did a road trip in a Titan, heading to various outdoor events, and folks were surprised to see Nissan promoting the sport. Some never even considered a Nissan pickup — or knew they existed — before seeing it towing a boat at the events.
Some of the tech that pickup enthusiasts take for granted is what Ripple found extremely useful: "The LED lighting in the bed," Ripple said, "was bright and made me feel comfortable at night. We often camp in places where there is no lighting."
Pickup trucks are getting more expensive with new technology and cutting-edge features. But these changes also make the trucks more reliable, more accessible and more useful to both casual buyers and professionals who needs a truck for their livelihood.
Seeing how pickups target this technology to various industries helps all of us better understand why pickup trucks are evolving the way they are and fitting into more lifestyles. Manufacturers are making the trucks more accessible to more people, and making once complicated tasks less intimidating, easier and safer.
It's also a good reminder that pickups are more than just horsepower and torque figures. Maximum towing isn't important when your fishing boat and trailer barely weigh 2,500 pounds. However, trusted advisors, like the enthusiasts who read this story and write comments below, affect purchase decisions every single day. Concept trucks like the Nissan Titan Surfcamp provide inspiration for potential truck buyers. In the ever-growing truck business, these aspects are key to the success or failure of a truck or a brand.