Nissan Frontiers Get Ready for Change

Marvin Runyon Pres NNAM II

Later this month, the last Nissan Frontier midsize pickup trucks will roll off the line at the famed Smyrna, Tenn., manufacturing plant. Production of the small pickups will move to Canton, Miss. 

According to, the first vehicle to roll off the then brand-new Smyrna production line was an early-model white regular cab Nissan/Datsun pickup in 1983, which eventually was called the Hardbody. The above photo is that first truck (called Job One) along with president and CEO (at the time) of Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp., Marvin Runyon. 

The article goes on to show how important the truck and plant were to the community and the 6,000 employees who worked there. The plant will remain but no longer produce the trucks; instead, it will make the new Inifiniti JX35 as well as the Nissan Rogue and Leaf. 

For those familiar with Nissan lineage, the Hardbody was made and sold for mass production from 1986 to 1997 until the completely redesigned first-gen Frontier debuted in 1998. The second-gen Frontier came out in 2005 and was refreshed in 2009. More changes are likely scheduled in the next few years. 

There have been more than 1 million Frontiers produced at the Smyrna plant, with more than 100,000 units sold in 2000, its best-selling year. Numbers at this year's end are likely to be closer to 70,000 units. 



@Big Al from Oz - great metaphor "NA aquarium". Experts talk about paradigms or thinking inside or outside "the box". We in NA tend to get trapped swimming around in our own little ponds. We start to think that our own little pond is the best and superior to others because we do not know better. Things like erosion, sedimentation, flooding or drought hit our little ponds hard and even then many of us little fish still do not realize that there are things beyond that affect us.
I've bounced around between owning full sized and compact trucks. I've had 1 reg cab long box compact, an extended cab short box compact, a reg cab long box 3/4 ton, and a crewcab long box 1/2 ton. I even had a small van (Safari). I had reasons for owning each one, they each had their own strenghts and weaknesses. At the time of purchase - the strengths outweighed the weaknesses, and obviously, when I sold them, the weaknesses outweighed the strengths.
Currently, I cannot see globals being able to take hold in NA. The Tacoma despite the fact that it is a few generations behind the globals is as close as it gets, and isn't a very strong market player compared to NA full sized trucks. Current 1/2 tons easily outperform it. The "latest and greatest" globals can easily give 1/2 tons a run for their money.
NA attitudes, and corporations who love their 1/2 ton cash cows will not change until they absolutely have to. It is naïveté at its finest to think that things will not change. USA and Canada could max out oil production and prices will still climb. In Canada there is much debate concerniing building a pipeline from Alberta through British Columbia to Prince Rupert to sell oil to the Chinese. Corporate and Government experts already see where the trends are heading. The Chinese have cash money to spend, the USA has Chinese borrowed money to spend. The irony is that most of the players wanting to ship oil to the Chinese are "American" corporations. The ultimate truth is "Cash always trumps credit". That pipeline will get built and I believe the greens and aboringinals will not be able to stop it.

@Lou-Your accessment of the NA truck market and of Oil is right on. Having worked in the industry I know quite a bit about Oil. Many Americans became upset when late last year it was reported that for the first time in years that the US became a net exporter of oil products and that drew outrage d at Big Oil but Economics 101 teaches the law of supply and demand and if some of these people had that class they might have slept through that part. As long as oil is not too high people wil drive big trucks and SUVs but they are complaining about $3.89 a gallon gas when $8 and above is the price the rest of the World pays. Many Americans think they have an inalienable right to cheap fuel. I would say a lot of the fanboys would agree with that and will be very upset when fuel prices skyrocket.

Big Al Mazda started exporting their trucks in the 70s as Ford Couriers which were outstanding. Although as of 2 years ago no Mazda trucks are sold in the US they have always had a sterling reputation for both their cars and trucks. Nissan at one time was the leading import compact truck from the late 60s through all the 70s, before Toyota became No 1. Nissan was called Datsun and they have produced some legendary cars and trucks. I would not hesitate to buy a Frontier or a Suzuki Equator its twin.

@Jeff S
I must say that having your contributions to the site as well as those from Robert Ryan and Big Al from Oz are a pleasant change. Adding some "intellectual" content to the discussions are welcomed and appreciated by me.

@Lou, Big Al from Australia, and Robert Ryan--I appreciate the more intellectual conversations and it is good to see a more global prospective. Big Al you are right we in NA, particularily in the US are in an aquarium. US television and media gives you a limited view of whats going on in the World. I do like to catch the BBC and the German news on Public Television to try to get a more World view. Every country is different and we should respect all differences but we have more in common than not. Lou you are correct that even the off topic comments we make on this site relate to what type of trucks we choose because that makes us who we are and who we are influences all of our decisions.

I will have been married for 26 years on August 16 and my wife flew for Pan Am for over 20 years. Being married to her I have learned to have a more global perspective. Lynn, my wife, has been to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, Thailand, Japan, the Middle East, Africa, and etc. She use to fly R&Rs during the Vietnam war and has some stories to tell about that. She loved flying to the South Pacific. We took a vacation to Hong Kong when they were still under British control before the end of PanAm and took a tour into China which was fascinating. Al and Robert she found Australians very friendly and she likes New Zealanders as well. She says that Sidney is one of the most beautiful cities she has ever seen and nothing compares to Sidney's harbor.

This is informative.
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