Nissan Titan: Taking a Look Back

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By Thomas Cannell

At the launch of the original 2004 Nissan Titan, Nissan provided a narrowly configured half-ton pickup for the heart of the market: a stout 4x4 crew cab with a 5.6-liter V-8 and a five-speed automatic transmission, a few innovative bed features and a sporty personality. It was so important to them that during the North America International Auto Show debut, the Renault-Nissan Chairman and CEO himself, Carlos Ghosn, made the introduction. Twelve years later, I found myself checking out the newest iteration of the Nissan Titan, the 2017, during a Nissan media event.

Diane Allen, senior design manager at Nissan Design America in California, told me, "Design for this Titan was very different from the first. For this Titan we had our hard hats on; we became better method actors as there had to be a truck-lover attitude from our design staff. There had to be an enhanced 'truck-i-ness' to our passion."

"That first Titan," said Allen, who was part of the original Titan design team, "was fresh, very Nissan, and is still good to look at — it has a nice line. [That truck] was about simple modernity, but the nose looks small now. One of the things we had to address was creating capable volumes. I was astonished how much we had to pull up and out [the Titan XD] to accommodate the Cummins engine."

Twelve years ago was a great time to be writing about pickup trucks. Ford was in its second iteration of the last-generation F-150 (which looked more like a bigger version of the Ford Ranger), Ram was no longer wet behind its horns, the Chevrolet Silverado was the gold standard and GMC had yet to discover its "Professional Grade." Breaking into that well-established full-size pickup segment was the second "import" brand, Nissan (Toyota was the first). Many auto writers knew the Titan would be a hard sell, as did Nissan, but as has been proven many times, the auto industry is no place for pessimists.

While trucks were not new to Nissan — think Datsun (Nissan's original name), Hardbody and Frontier pickups, and the Xterra SUV — every process during the first-generation Titan's development would be considered old school by today's methods. Models were created of hand-sculpted clay, Allen told us. Laser scanning technology did not exist; it took days to collect data mechanically, point-by-point, for a new model to be developed. Today, a vehicle can be scanned and the data revised in hours thanks to 3-D design software.

"Overnight a fresh model can be milled, and we're looking at the revisions in the courtyard in the morning," Allen said. "Viewing the full-sized model in daylight is a primary difference between modeling a truck or a Sentra-sized car ... you really have to see it in daylight to get the balance, to get the volumes right, particularly up front."

Allen added that headlights are always tricky; the wrong size, shape or angle can result in what she called "cat-eye" (think squinty), which nobody wants.

The original Titan required more time and manpower to create, Allen said: "You know, I think the ideation today, because of 3-D, is so effectively fast that it is inspiring to designers. The clay for the first Titan took much longer. With all our digital capability, the excitement, the return for investment, is really high.

"There's a difference in how our designers look at trucks," she continued. "A full-sized truck was new to us back then, not yet the full-on 'YEAH!' we get from them now. It got competitive and when you tell a designer 'Your truck design isn't truck enough,' it gets their testosterone flowing."

Even though the 2017 version is billed as "new," Nissan kept some features from the original Titan. Rich Miller, senior manager for Nissan truck and SUV product planning, told us Nissan kept the warrantied spray-in bedliner and the in-bed Utili-track cargo system. Also a member of the original Titan team, Miller added that the small, lockable storage box in the rear, lower quarter panel has been replaced by an optional pair of removable bed boxes.

Also remaining true to the original Titan pickup is the suspension setup: "Our suspension strategy [on the new truck] is the same for us: Everything we can package up and out of the way, we package up and out of the way of rocks and trouble," he said.

New pickup designs and features will evolve as people continue to buy large numbers of pickup trucks in the U.S., but it's unlikely many truckmakers will be as aggressive as Nissan. Replacing its rather narrowly configurable old Titan with two different models — the Titan half-ton and Titan XD in regular, King and crew-cab configurations — is an extreme overhaul. This overhaul can be interpreted as Nissan saying it wants to compete with the big boys and it's here to stay. We'll have to wait and see whether or not that happens. photos by Thomas Cannell


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The All-New 2017 Nissan Titan

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Edited excerpt from this article:

Twelve years ago was a great time to be writing about pickup trucks. Ford was in its second iteration of the last-generation F-150 (which looked more like a bigger version of the Ford Ranger), Ram was no longer wet behind its horns, the Chevrolet Silverado was the gold standard

Yes Ford guys that is correct, the Chevrolet was and still is the GOLD standard?

Gotta ask why it took so long before Nissan had any significant design changes? It's been mostly famine with Nissan pickup updates and the XD roll out has been equally underwhelming.

Are you kidding me?? Re-read that sentence and you'll notice it says " WAS the gold standard " Not anymore pal.

Nissan is a truck manufacturer and it's what they started with. The first vehicle they ever produced was a fire truck.

Ken, Nissan had partnered with Chrysler to begin building its next generation Titan. Then came the financial downturn in 2008. Chrysler eventually filed for bankruptcy and scrapped the deal they made with Nissan. Nissan literally had to start from scratch after their contract with Chrysler fell through.

To be honest, Im glad this prevented the partnership with Chrysler from happening. Nissan builds great vehicles and many die hard Nissan fans were very concerned with Chrysler building their truck. I truly believe that once all configurations are released, the new Titan will demand the attention it deserves. Slowly but surely, Nissan is putting together a lineup of trucks that its competitors will need to keep an eye on.

The 5.6L V8 is an animal yet very refined. Whats really going to be interesting are the details on the yet to be announced V6. Are they going to simply offer an updated version of the 4.0, or are they readying their twin turbo 3.0L for truck duty. This engine is already in production and available in two flares. The first tuned at 300hp and the other at 400hp.

No comment on the painfully slow roll out? The only truck that has taken longer from announcement to showroom was the Mahindra. I was expecting to buy a new Nissan before I retired...four years ago.

@Donald they wanted to make sure they got this truck right, they put a big focus on quality to be able to offer a 5 year 100K warranty.

Why didn't you ask him about sales? The XD isn't selling well like they said it would it and I don't see how the non-XD is going to get them to the goal of 10% market share and minimum requirement of 5%.

They said anything less than 5% would be considered by them to be not very successful. Out of full-size trucks they have 0.59% market share.

Somebody has to ask Nissan about sales and hold them accountable.

Nissan sold fewer than 13,000 Titans last year. A 5 percent share of the 2014 full-size pickup market would translate to about 120,000 sales.


Big sales goal for new Titan may be low, Nissan's Munoz says
January 22, 2015


Munoz told the audience that Nissan is looking for roughly 100,000 Titan sales. In the first two years of U.S. sales for the outgoing Titan, 2004 and 2005, Nissan sold approximately 85,000 Titans. Its sales have dwindled since then for a variety of reasons -- not least of which was the simple lack of a fresh replacement model until now.

But Nissan has redesigned the truck for 2016 to appeal to a wider spectrum of buyers starting late this year, Munoz said. While the first-generation Titan relied on only one engine offering, the new version will offer more engine and cab configurations, including a turbocharged V-8 Cummins diesel engine.

“We sold about 100,000 with only 55 percent of segment coverage, with less engines,” Munoz reasoned, referring the Titan’s 2004-05 success. “Now we’re going to cover 90 percent of the market.

“We’re very bullish.”

Nissan should have updated the Titan with the 7 speed automatic for the 2010 Model Year, certainly by the 2011.
Infiniti received the JATCO 7 speed for the '09 Model Year.
Even taking into account 'corporate deference' {the Infiniti Qx56 upgraded to the 7 speed for '11 M.Y.}, the 2012 model year should have been the upgrade year for the Titan.

So the current Titan should have the ZF 8 speed automatic, or the Mercedes 9 speed.
Nissan can easily use a longitudinal variant of the updated 3.5 liter V6 {from the Pathfinder: direct injected 284hp@6400, 259ft-lbs@4800} for circa 300hp, 270ft-lbs; as the entry level powerplant.
That also leaves from for a ~350hp twin-turbocharged 3.0 V6.

The only reason they upped the warranty was to try to juice sales. We are in August and sales are over 90% off from what Nissan wanted them to be.

I've got a 2008 Titan and I love it. Wouldn't trade it for a brand new ford in a million years.

With a peasly 26 gal fuel tank and no exhaust break is inexcusable!

@Greg B

It ain't over till it's over.

Nissan is bringing a very solid competitor to market in the Titan, offering a serious diesel (unlike FCA) with its 5.0 Cummins and the new V8 gasser.

RAM and Toyota are still humping half ton models that are effectively ten years old. Go drive a 2016 RAM and a new Titan side by side. You'll see.

Pickup drivers in the suburbs are going to discover that Ford's turbo engines are not economical in typical boulevard driving, so why not get a big V8?


See it for what it is. A failure.

I don't know how you can consider the Titan to be anything other than a failure. The first Titan did not live up to Nissan's sales expectations in its first year, and it didn't come anywhere near them ever since, and this relaunched version is even worse!

Furthermore, revenue from the Titan has not funded its ongoing development, Nissan has had to once again take money from elsewhere in the company to basically relaunch the Titan to a complete and utter failure.

5% was the minimum basis for the investment and over 5% was the goal. If they cannot get to even 1%, it is over.


"Nissan is bringing a very solid competitor to market in the Titan, offering a serious diesel (unlike FCA) with its 5.0 Cummins and the new V8 gasser"

But think about it: Is that really an achievement? It's not like they were the first manufacturer to offer a serious diesel truck engine or a V8 gasser. I mean, they got some press for it, but did that turn into sales?

BTW, Ram trucks were redone in 2013 and virtually everything was touched - and they have more updates coming. Nissan Titan is a Ford copycap that nobody wants. Ford is the sales leader and has a new SD and a F-150 major update coming next year. Chevy has its all new trucks coming in 2018. Sales figures suggests Nissan cannot and will not compete with any of this. Nissan got press, but not sales.

In 2004 I wanted a TITAN in the worst way. It was way ahead of everyone. In three years it was already behind. Toyota sells 110,000 Tundras a year without really trying, they will keep selling that many till they decide to update it. I'll go on record now and say the Titan combined sales regular and XD will never break 100,000. They may get to 70,000 if the incentives ramp up. The XD has $3000 on the hood now.

How can anyone say the XD is a failure when Nissan hasnt even marketed it yet. They are doing a extremely cautious rollout. Until dealers have all configurations on the lot why would they spent millions on marketing? The rollout is going exactly as Nissan planned.

In Canada, they've been discounting XD's from the get go. You can get $10K off today and they aren't moving. Keeping in mind list prices and discounts are heftier in Canada this is on par with what all other manufacturers do with year end models to get rid of them. We're at the end of summer and there's barely an XD on the road and lots filled with them. Also plenty of issues appearing in online forums with 5.0. Issues (surprise surprise) with some dealers having no clue what other do with them due to lack of training on the Cummins. This is not a good roll out. The half ton will be the thing that saves the program.

@Greg somebody has to hold Nissan accountable for Sales? Says who you? Nissan can do what ever they want to do but I highly doubt they will sell something that's not profitable. Why do you even care?

My belief is the new Titan and Titan XD will produce sales better than many of the armchair experts state. Here's why.

The XD is only targeting a very small percentage of the pickup market.

When the full range of half ton Titans are let loose on the public there will be a far wider range of pickups to suit a wide range of prospective customers. Nissan stated it will aim to reach 85% of the pickup consumer market.

Ford is only reaching 90% of the market currently because it lacks a midsize pickup. Ram is in a similar position.

Toyota with the Tundra and Taco is reaching an audience of, I'd say, 75% of potential customers.

The only manufacturer hitting a home run at the moment is GM with its GMC and Chev branded pickups.

When you sum it all up you see Nissan with the XD is only hitting the bottom end of the HD sales. Then add that all of the Titan XDs were mainly diesel and high end models this shrinks it down even further.

If one now looks at the Titan numbers logically it appears Nissan isn't doing that poorly.

Nissan could sell over 10 000 Titans a month .......... plus add the Frontier and Nissan could have 15 000 to 20 000 pickups sold a month.

Mulitply this by 12 months and you could have a quarter of a million pickups sold by Nissan a year. The sales other than the Frontier will come from the other manufacturers. I see Ford taking the biggest hit.

I hope Nissan does well. It makes an honest product.

At wildwilly
GM is not hitting a full home run at 100% of the market.
GM is missing one model that they discontinued after 2013. That is the half ton supercab long bed.

This is the only truck I have bought over the past 20 years. Only two manufacturers build them anymore, Ford and Toyota.
I bought a Tundra long bed double cab last year.
I need the long bed. 5.5 footers don't cut it for me


If you want to fault Nissan for anything, it's bringing the new Titan to a North American marketplace, where the economy in Canada is in the dumps, and the US is in a protracted period of economic sluggishness that dates back ten years.

GM and Ford benefit from brand loyalty that is the envy of every manufacturer on earth. Nissan will need to be patient to crack that nut--but it can be done.

PapaJim is right, look at Toyota, they attract a few more customers with every generation of the Tundra, and Nissan will do the same.

Nissan's new Titan was rolled out with the 5L Cummins because they thought that would fill a huge need. Of course that need was only Nissan's wet dream as there's been virtually no sales. The XD seems to pulling mostly from the Nissan Titan fan base, a seemingly unsophisticated tow/haul crowd.

"The XD seems to pulling mostly from the Nissan Titan fan base, a seemingly unsophisticated tow/haul crowd."


Do you ever consider reading what you are about to post before you pull the trigger?

Yes Ford guys that is correct, the Chevrolet was and still is the GOLD standard?

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Aug 28, 2016 8:31:52 AM

@ GMSRNOTGREAT; in yr wet dreams - shaky chebby has being plying catch up for almost 40 yrs & still are...hahaha

Do you ever consider reading what you are about to post before you pull the trigger?


Stick to what you know. You don't tow/haul. You know politics, cars, and bottom feeder/Ranger size trucks. Stick to what you know!

You may be laughing at the XD now but when the mandatory cafe standards for light duty pickups kick in and the half ton truck as you know it turns into a unit body car Nissan will have the XD to sell which is exempt.

I have heard that point before but the facts are the CAFE target for 2025 lighty-duty trucks is 23 mpg on the window sticker which they already achieve or will achieve by 2025 and can easily exceed.

If the XD is exempt because it is a HD, then Ford/GM/Ram HDs will also be exempt.

CAFE was not written by god. It can be repealed and should be because CAFE was a futile attempt in the 1970s to address oil shortages. It has no reason for exisiting today.

I agree. Papa Jim is right.

It is 9 months after the XD went on sale but Nissan still doesn't have full volume for Titan right now. Lets be honest, the XD was a relatively niche truck and the half-ton Titan will be the volume seller and it just went on sale this month!

As the bulk of fullsize pickups sold are half-ton models, Nissan expects to really move the sales needle now. Watch the sales for August to come in next week and you will see what PapaJim and I are talking about is 100% right.

Month by month, sales will start to pick up more and more. By December, sales should be a lot better. Then next Spring when Nissan is at full volume, watch for the big sales to come in! Nissan will sell up 10k a month and up to 150k Titans a year very easily!

It's not over til it's over.

XD fans love hand wave the facts and blow smoke about the XD being a niche and never intended to blah blah.... Here's the truth.

At the rollout announcement Nissan CEO Ghosn said the XD was targeting 100k annual customers that bounce between HD and half ton. So far XD sales have been no where near there targets. XDs are sitting in dealer lots. There just hasn't been enough interest in the XD to ever get there. It was a poor plan from the get-go. It's over weight, underspec'd, underperforms, and fuel economy is underwhelming.

Anyone that ever followed the Cummins 5L knew there was little interest in it relative to poor fuel economy and being long in the tooth.

In all fairness to Ken, he probably isn't one of the commenters here at PUTC that was constantly begging the auto industry to offer a half ton truck with a real diesel option, not the mini-motor RAM uses in their Eco model.

Were you, Ken?

Ford lied to me about my F-150
My F-150 struggles to tow 3000 lbs
My gas mileage is no better than 14 MPG
With the 7350 lb GVWR package it sags with 800 lbs in the bed.
When turn the heat or ac on always get a burning smell from the vents
SYNC has a mind of its own, it works sometimes
The plastic chrome fades away after the first year
The electric pwr steering is too touchy

I will look at the Nissan Titan XD

Ken, I think you need to watch Ghosens announcement again. He was stating the market size, not Nissans expectation of sales. This 150,000 market hardly even knows the XD exist yet.

I still have my original 2004 first year Titan, the engine that won't die, does not leak oil and has never left me stranded. I had to replace the faulty manifolds, and the cheap brackets to the rear leaf springs and I burned up my front diff while in a blizzard, and the brakes, those cheap brakes. But, 12 years later, I'm still offroading, still pulling my boat, still going strong. I think I'm finally ready for my next Titan. King cab, long bed, hopefully in the Pro4X. I'm getting excited.

Papa Jim is right alright. Titan sales just need to increase 1,200% and he and Nissan will be right. Good luck with that. smh.

Consider the only versions of the Titan on dealer lots at the moment are the XD crew cabs with the Cummins and the 5.6L before you start saying sales are bad. No King Cabs and no non XDs. Sales will rise when the 1/2 ton and its other configurations hit the lots. Nissan has a big base of current Titan owners that have been waiting. It seems like they addressed the previous generations weaknesses pretty well

Before long, there will not be any excuses. I am pretty sure that this lady has said before that she is the main designer of this truck and worked on clay herself. The design is a complete failure. Designing a truck requires more than "get their testosterone flowing". I think you must have liked and ridden in trucks from a child to design something like this successful. Metro folks don't understand. Also, I'm not going to say it is impossible that a woman can design a truck, it is just that the odds are against them that the execution will be off. As equal as some want it to be, the reality is that men are different and think differently.

Papa Jim is right alright. Titan sales just need to increase 1,200%


When Nissan gains a small increase over last year's pathetic Titan sales numbers, their 2016 figures will represent a significant year/year increase.

There are still four months left in 2016 and it's the peak of the retail season for cars/trucks.


We still have 4 months in the year to go in 2016. Then 12 more months in 2017.

Nissan never said they would sell 120,000 or whatever units in the first year. In fact, it was Nissan's plans to do a slow rollout and start the real selling next year.

Hold your horses!

You might sell more trucks if parts weren't so should be a crime when it cost more to keep one running, than it cost new!!! I have a'05, and I STILL have to go to the dealership for parts. THIS IS WRONG!!!......I love my truck, but will never buy another Nissan.

"... I am pretty sure that this lady has said before that she is the main designer of this truck and worked on clay herself. The design is a complete failure."


You must be talking about a different truck. The Titan was a world apart from the rest of the half ton pickups when it was first released.

Consider it was the only real half ton truck equipped STANDARD with a contemporary V8 (the big 3 were milking it back then in the engine dept), a five speed auto and stylish looks.

Back then Ford and GM each had a tired product and RAM was just rolling out their 5.7 V8 -- Toyota was still selling a mid-sizer they called the Tundra. The Nissan had a slick and rugged cargo-management system at a time when your new Ford or Chevy came with a mickey mouse plastic bedliner.


I went and drove the GM silverado, Ford F140 and the Titan
Ram and Toyota are not in the running too old
I am waiting for the Titan to be released to buy the Titan SL
like night and day the Titan stood out.
Engine much better then either Ford or GM
ride was as smooth or smoother than Ford and GM
Interior Titan hands down Bed Titan hands down
Titan is the new gold standard Though GM was a very close second Ford not quite there the V8 was lazy transmission hunted for the right gear. If it was not for the much better Bed arrangement I might of picked the GM.

12 years ago... GM was only 6 short years from bankruptcy and failure and the Ford F Series was still the best selling truck in the world for like the 28th year in a row and still leading today.

The Titan was good and relevant in 04. Once its bugs (like the rear end) were worked out it was a perfectly adequate truck in most instances and a viable alternative for those burned by the big 3 and in 2010 the big 3 minus 1. Where things fell apart was the lack of expansion and refinement. While much of that is Nissans fault for deciding to partner with Cerribus Chrysler to make the Nissan Ram. In trying to be cheap and fast with the next Generation Titan by teaming up with the all too often in jeopardy 3rd party owned Chrysler ended up costing Nissan the better part of a decade and the Titan any relevance in the market beyond that of being a good value for the money or 2nd rate protest vote to the Big 3 minus 1.

Its nice to see the Titan back but I still think they have missed the mark. A lot of people whine about the styling but I don't think its bad and will grow on people. The big disappointment is that the Titan doesn't lead in any real category. They tried making up the 5/8ths ton pickup and no one seems to care especially for the money they want so another swing and a miss. I hope that innovation, refinement and expansion of the line, like a really good V6 for the half tons, and a serious 3/4 or being the first or nearly first at something could go a long way to legitimizing it as a contender.

The new Titan is off to a slow start and while that's not good it more about how you end up than start out. Both Nissan and Toyota have stayed with the full size truck program even after failure, misstarts, stumbles, and now demonstrating basic competence neither have yet to hit a home run or even triple but they stick with the game and things are slowly building. If they continue its only a matter of time before they do become SERIOUS threats/contenders in this market. A market neither has mad a profit in yet and neither ever really needs to yet can afford to "play" around in it unlike the Big 3 minus 1 where even a minor dip in sales here represents a potential bankruptcy due to lack of diversification and focus on vehicles that sell well regardless of economic and regulatory issues. If Toy and Nissian press on they will succeed here.

Extended warranty mainly appeals to retail buyers. But retail sales won't lift Nissan past its goal of 5% market share.

The only way to meet that ridiculous sales target is to aggressively target fleet buyers to switch with low low low prices - we are talking thousands lower than Ram, which is the current low price leader. It remains to be seen if Nissan is really going to sacrifice any possibility of profit to gain market share. At some point, it's just not worth doing (and I would argue that point was in 2014 before they sunk all this money into updating the Titan in a hopeless mission to fight the Big 3 for market share).

What Nissan should have done in hindsight is to bring over the new Navara (Frontier)... there was a real window of opportunity to eat into Tacoma's dominance but GM got there first and Ford is about to slam shut the door next year on mid size segment next year with Ranger. Instead of having 1 up to date and competitive truck, Nissan will now be stuck with 2 outdated and also run trucks.

@papa Jim, was referring to current design.

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