Five Minutes With Nissan's Fred Diaz

Nissan Titan Cummins Spy 2 II

Those who follow the auto industry closely will remember the tremors sent across the truck world when Fred Diaz left Ram a little more than seven months ago. As Ram president and CEO, the Texas native was instrumental in guiding the newly formed Chrysler truck-only brand (no longer referred to as Dodge) in 2009, as well as working with dealers and fleet buyers when the revolutionary 2009 Ram 1500 debuted with coil springs and a vastly upgraded interior. Other big news made under his watch included the creation of the Ram Commercial brand and the inclusion of the Ram ProMaster.

Diaz is now the divisional vice president of North American sales and marketing for Nissan, in charge of both cars and trucks in the U.S.A. We had the chance to sit down with Diaz for a few minutes and talk about his move to Nissan, the company's current pickup truck lineup and what products he likes in the Nissan portfolio.

On the next-generation Titan:

"When I first came over, practically the first thing I wanted to do was get to the design studio [near La Jolla, Calif.]. As I lifted my head to see the truck in the studio's atrium, in the sunlight, in full size, that's when I thought, 'OK, I get it now.' I think I shocked a few people there when I started to crawl around the truck, probably a lot longer than they thought I would, and had some ideas for them right away. Then I was a little shocked the next I saw a clay model that had many of the suggestions I threw out there."

On Nissan's relationship with diesel manufacturer Cummins:

"The Cummins deal was well in place before I came over, but I knew it was the right thing to do. The name Cummins means a lot to truck guys and to see that name on the side of a truck. We're going to do some special things with the new half-ton, and the new Cummins [engine] will be a big part of that."

About how well Nissan is listening:

"From Day One, everyone I dealt with made it clear to me: In this truck market they were going to rely heavily on me for input and ideas. From the outset they relied on me to teach them about what this pickup market is all about and what has to happen if we want to succeed. Basically I told them if you want to seriously play in the truck world, you better put on your big-boy pants and jump in."

Whether the Cummins is more appropriate for a heavy-duty model:

"We're not going to play in the heavy-duty segment, but that doesn't mean we can't do some very interesting things with the half-ton. When I came over they were right in the middle of some serious decisions, and I believe the ones we've made will get us back in the fight."

About the Frontier:

"We have not thrown much marketing or advertising at the Frontier and it is doing pretty well, so with a little more attention and support I think we can be happy with what that truck is. We know it could use some interior changes, but we won't be able to do that for a while."

We know nothing gets done quickly when designing or re-engineering a full-size or midsize pickup, so we'd guess we won't see anything close to production until the 2016 model year for the Titan (which means nothing serious for 14 to 18 months). It will probably a year after that for the Frontier. Of course, we'd expect Nissan to put the Frontier on the fast track if the new Colorado becomes a sales hit. More to come.



2016, I'm not waiting I'm buying a Ram then. I love my 05 Titan but I want a new truck soon.

Ok so now we know who needs to be fired.

Fred Diaz, you need to lay off the crack pipe.

Nissan Buyers don't want a big RAM truck and RAM buyers don't want a puny Nissan truck. Get it through your head. You're going to collapse the company with yet another failed attempt to compete with detroit.

MaXx, The Titan is just as big as a Ram and a better tower for that matter, I think your just getting scared myself.

@ John: It'll be mid/late 2015 as a 2016 model. Still, that's over a year and a half away yet.

If the new Colorado makes it big (and I hope it does--it's time for an American-based company to have a chance in the small-truck market again), we should expect a new Frontier no later than 2016 (coming out the same time as the new Titan would be best, I think).
And maybe Ford will consider bringing in the T6 Ranger (with a more "American" front clip, of course) if the Colorado is a hit? A guy can dream.
A new mid-size from Ram? Probably not, given that the EcoDiesel is expected to go at least 26 miles on one gallon of diesel on the highway.

I think you're forgetting how Diaz essentially turned Ram trucks around from the lackluster, poor quality Dodge Rams that preceded 2010. He set the foundation for Ram trucks to gain more market share, and continue to do so.

Now, Nissan saw this and offered him a lucrative position to take the helm at Nissan North America, with the goal in mind to turn Nissan (particularly their trucks) around and gain more market share. What Ram and Nissan can exploit is the fact that having little market share allows these companies to be more innovative and take risks. That is why they are the first to offer diesel powertrains (in recent years). That's also why Ram has offers the little things like Rambox and air/coil suspension. Nissan has the potential for much creativity and innovation.

It will be interesting to see what happens at Nissan. If Diaz does at Nissan what he did at Ram, you'll be seeing more Titans on the road and advertised on tv.

Frontier development would need to be well under way for them to have a model out in 2016 which is only 2 - 2.5 years away.

Well this is the first time we know for sure that the new Titan wont be a 2015 model.

What was revolutionary about the 2009 Ram coil spring rear suspension?
GM had it 49 years prior to that introduction.


I saw a full 2 page ad for the 5.0 cummins in a bus mag the other day with big picture of the engine with school kids in the background

I'd think the 6.0L would be ok for most 3/4 ton applications. I bet the 5.0L only musters around 16/25mpg city/hwy. It'll be more capable versus the Ecodiesel and unfortunately more expensive.

@Bob, yeah and GM also had a diesel half-ton, an oldsmobile diesel, that was not available on the heavy duty.

@ Bob, whats so great about the 09 intro for Ram? Well, I had just spend 10 years and 2 crap silverados, bad rear ends, bad brakes and interior problems thru out with no help from GM on any warranty issues, they told me I tow too much and need a bigger truck(I towed a 2K pound bassboat around the east coast), I looked at a 09 silverado, and on the same dealer lot(both sold Chevy and Ram), looked at the Ram, the silvy was an LT model, the Ram was a SLT, inside and out ram was much niceer and did way more than in an slt than a mid grade chevy, sold, moved on from chevy never looked back

Oh if you think your silverado was a piece just wait until the MIL comes on in your ram.

Turning around the RAM sales was easy. Just make it bigger, noisier and more rednecky and loosen up financing. That's how you sell 'Merican trucks. But Nissan OTOH is a different buyer. Making the engines bigger and noisier and smellier isn't going to sell Titans. It'll sell F.O.R.D., Rams and chevys but it's not going to sell Titans. You can all tell me how right I was in a few years. I was going to leave Totyota for nissan if the improved their industry trailing MPG and reliability but that ain't gonna happen now. More likely to get a chevy colorado.

Back in '10 friend of mine almost bought a brand new 4X4 Ram/Dodge, whatever they were back there, that wasn't a 4X4! Brand new truck on dealer lot, with 6 miles on it, with 4X4 decals all over it, tailgate, both doors, as big as they can be! We sit inside and it turns out it's a 2 wheel drive! You should see salesman's face expression when he realized that!
We go back inside, he mentions that to his manager. Guy smiles and says "yesterday we took delivery of 8 new Dodge Caravans, all with Chrysler wheels installed on them. Nothing ever surprises me with Chrysler Corp". He turned it into a laughter, but he knew right then and there that he just lost a sale.
On our way home friend says "I wonder what else is missing, put backwards or installed incorrectly on that truck. Feel sorry for the next soul that buys that thing"
The next day my friend became a proud owner of brand new Silverado. Never looked back.

Nissan can do what ever they want with their new truck, but for it to sell? it needs to look better than the titan did.

I am looking forward to the changes Fred will bring. He did a great job for Ram trucks and I am sure he will not disappoint with Nissian . Go get em Fred !!

Why five minutes and not seven or ten or even thirteen? Just saying.

The D20/D40 were both designed in La Jolla, I'm wondering if the design of the new Nissan midsizer will be external to the US, like all of the new midsizers.

It seems they will build a "HD" version of a half ton pickup with the 5 litre Cummins. Toyota tried this and I don't think they were successful. Maybe Nissan will get the formula right.

Most of the work a HD does could be done by a more competent 1/2 ton.

I wish Nissan and Diaz well.

Smart man, left Ram and went somewhere else. I guess even Nissan is better then Ram! Less recalls, that is for sure.

Guys, I wasn't knocking Ram about about the rear coils, but rather the site and some others for hailing it as such a breakthrough. I was a subscriber to Truck Trend magazine at the time and they headlined it as a "world's first" or some such!
If Ram wants to plow ground that's already been broken let 'em have at it!

@ John ,

Fred Diaz was with Chrysler for 24 years ! Sooooo,your 2010 point is clueless/doesnt make sense !!

Poor quality RAM trucks before 2010 ?

My still have my 1970 Dodge Adventurer with a modern truck quick 383 4bbl,miles unknown since a 5 digit odometer (I put over 200,000 on it myself its now restored) Had a 78 Power Wagon with a 440 was a reliable/powerful truck mileage unknown when bought as its also a 5 digit odometer put on 120,000 miles myself.1996 360 (5.9) had 350,000 miles.My 2003 is s till kicking around as a 3rd vehicle with 275,000 miles with a 4.7 Magnum..My 2013 HEMI RAM 1500 proves just as reliable as my previous Dodge RAM trucks ! So what happened in 2010 that made them more reliable ? Its only journelists/peoples perception that changed,Chrysler's always were reliable,just perception was bad because they are so good at building good looking vehicles..

Chrysler's are like a good looking woman,women knock good/hot women because they are jealous,but all want to be a good looking !

The reason Diaz left Chrysler,was the new management sent Diaz to head Chrysler Mexico,and the guy is scared of Mexico,didnt like it there,and wanted to live/work in the U.S and to do so he had to leave Chrysler..Remember he wasnt the guy who designed the RAM,sure like all had input but he will be missed,but we had changes before and it turned out any company/job good people come and go !

Nissan has to get the design right if they want to be successful.
The drivetrain for that 5.0 cummins must also be a good match.
If they make a mistake in those two areas its all over for Nissan.






@Big Al from Oz: How much different is the Aus/global-spec Navara from the US Frontier? I thought for sure that they were nearly identical, at least on the outside.

You Ram boys make me laugh. Too bad your ill informed and basically driving a big car.
The big bad hemi is way overated.
The Titan is an old truck but still has a much stronger and better built power plant with the 5.6.
Hp is misleading boys. Ive lined up against my buddies 2012 Ram and there is no contest. I leave him behind at about 35 mph. Both trucks are stock.
Titan is the nicest looking truck out there even with its age. I would say the Ram is my second choice as far as looks go though.
I would most definitely look at the new Titan when its launched but price could be the deciding factor.

Art: I need to ask you something, if the titan is such a good running, and looking truck, (looks are a mater of taste), then tell me why have been and are sales so dismal? it is either great running, or ugly? and I believe they run fine?

@Snapdragon McFisticuff
Well it has 405lbs ft 3 litre diesel. Payloads vary from 1,711lbs to 2200lbs for he D22, but D40 has a heavier Payload.(Lightest of all the Asian Pickups) and it can do this below:

I would most definitely look at the new Titan when its launched but price could be the deciding factor.
Posted by: Art | Nov 21, 2013 8:20:38 PM

All signs of a tire kicker.

Yes looks are a matter of opinion. Lots of compliments from people on my Titan.
Tire kicker? I think not pal. Just not an arrogant ill informed brand loyal Redneck.
They all make good trucks these days. Just throwing a few jabs back at the guys in bed with their Rams.
Lighten up!

@Snapdragon McFisticuff
I really don't know. We have a different selection of drivetrains, a 2.5 litre, 4 cylinder diesel with about 185hp and 320ftlb, the Renault 3 litre V6 diesel with around 240hp and 405ftlb.

The frame I'm to sure about. But I would assume the diesel's would have a different diff, maybe what you have on the Titan.







@Sandman4x4 Since when is sales an indication of quality? Ford has been sales leader forever but they have had dome poor quality models. Not picking on ford just saying. VW Beatle sold millions over 70 years and came with a tool kit. It's price that sells and some loyalty factors in as well.

interesting! I really wish they would have built a 2500 series. same with Toyota. the mid size 5.0 diesel is a great engine size. I think the hd pickups should have engine options like this that are smaller. I would actually buy a diesel if it was mid size and proven reliable. this 5.0 being put in busses means this motor must have some kind of good results from testing. if ford put a 5.0 cummins in a reg cab f350 with the 8 ft bed id be all about it! how about with a 7 spd hand shaker that keeps them rpms down @80mph just dreaming.

my idea of a good motor would be a v10 that runs on 5 cyl all the time until u flip the switch or it senses it needs the other bank, or other 5 various pistons to start firing. the size of a motor that will run on less cyl is important I think it should be bigger so it will work less. an 8.0 v10 that has a 5 cyl 4.0 running most of the time can get similar mpg to a 5.0 v8. ford seems to get good mileage with the 5.0 v8 in f150 so I figure that dream setup would be good in a one ton truck work truck preferably

To be competitive in the segment, Nissan needs to have a 4WD
System with a neutral in the transfer case.....allowing their pickups to be towed 4 wheels down. Currently neither Nissan nor Toyota have a pickup with this capability

With the size of pickups increasing to make it simpler to meet CAFE targets, the next Titan might be nearly the size of a Super Duty.

If that is the case it will not be hard for a 5 litre diesel in a near on Super Duty size truck to work well.

I really do hope that Nissan can put together a good full size pickup.

Fiat/Ram with its 3 litre VM diesel could do better if it offered a realistic truck suspension that can be loaded. Offer a heavier duty diesel Ram 1500 in a work truck ie, vinyl floor covering, basic cloth seats, single cab, cab chassis option with a 3 000lb payload, etc.

I do think Ram would be better for it. A diesel work truck.

@sandman4x4, I'm not Art, but I'll do my best impression. The reason why the Titan has been such a poor seller over the years is due to several things. First, it hasn't been updated since it debuted back in '04. Ten years with basically no major changes is an eternity in the PU market these days. The front grill and headlight change back in '08 doesn't really count because the changes were so minor they're insignificant. Now, we did see another minor change in '13 which included a new tailgate and center stack pod on up level trim models. Again, the changes are nearly insignificant compared to the competition.

Secondly, the model line up was severely limited with only one power train choice and only two cab styles and one bed length choice for each of them. The long bed option finally arrived for '08, but it was too late by then to pick up sales due to the introduction of the 2nd generation Tundra which siphoned sales.

Thirdly, all of this was happening around the time the economy crashed and the failed Titan/Ram merger. The domestics weathered though the bad times with dependable fleet sales, government bailouts and brain washed domestic loyalists.

This is why the Cummins diesel option for the next gen Titan is critical to the success of the next gen Titan. And, if Nissan doesn't penny pinch like they did with the original version, they'll have a winner.

I'd love to see the Frontier get a smaller but higher torque Cummins diesel. This would really freshen up a very strong small pickup.

According to Popular Mechanics, "The single turbocharger is a water-cooled variable-geometry unit capable of exhaust braking, something the Ram 1500's VM 3.0 does not offer."


So the Titan could be the only half-ton with a lot of things, including a jake brake!

Still have my 2004 Titan. I don't know how to compare it to the newer American model trucks, but it was better back when I bought it ten years ago. It's been super reliable, never broken down, towed loads from Cali all the way to Maine without a problem. So....would I buy another Titan? Sure. I can't really think of any reason not to. As long as they don't go throwing a chained CVT in it like they did the new Pathfinder. I'm personally not one of those people that hate CVTs. They have their place, but not in a half ton. I'd have to say that has been my favorite thing about the Titan. It has the most amazing automatic transmission and it's still beautiful ten years later with 360,000 miles on it. Give me some better gas mileage and I'll probably trade in my old and get a new one in 2018 or so when they start discounting them heavily.

You have to admit that Mr. Diaz did a great job for ram trucks. I mean you are seeing them everywhere and their owners like them. Gone are the days of the massive tranny failures that plauged them for so long that it is legendary. I love the cummins diesel but question the size in this application. Just seems too big to me for this platform. Why not smaller and much better gas mileage?

The comments to this entry are closed.