The Disrupter? - Blow-Off Editorial
Nissan Titan XD
The term “disrupt” has taken on a whole new meaning during the past few years when innovations are being discussed. Instead of being thought of as a roadblock, now when a product is called a “disrupter” it’s actually a compliment, meaning it has the power to transform an entire market through unconventional innovation. One of the most notable disrupters to make news lately is the anti-taxi company Uber, which has turned the world of hired drivers upside down. By offering an app that connects civilian chauffeurs to anyone with a smartphone and a credit card, the company has made a name for itself around the globe in less than five years of existence.
Back in 2008, if your friend said he was going to order an Uber car, you’d think he planned to buy an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes-Benz (and that he was a dork for talking that way). Ever since the Uber service caught on like wildfire with the public, taxi and limo companies have been scrambling to modify their business models. Who knows if they will find a way to deal with this unexpected and radical change to their business? For now, it looks like a market that’s been around since the days of the horse-drawn carriages has been permanently disrupted before our own eyes.
This makes me wonder if the ’16 Nissan Titan XD with a Cummins 5.0L V-8 diesel engine will become “The Disrupter” of the current light truck market in the U.S. The editor of Diesel Power, KJ Jones, has coined the term “5⁄7-ton” while discussing the positioning of the Titan XD due to the difficulty in classification. The pickup is being marketed like it’s a ½-ton (something comfortable that anyone can drive) but looks to offer much of the power, performance, and durability usually reserved for modern ¾-ton trucks that are not meant for mere mortals. There’s no way to know how it will truly be received until it goes on sale later this year, but Nissan is confident enough that people will take the Titan XD seriously to sell it with a gooseneck hitch and hooks built into the frame.
Plus, it looks like the market may be starving for a new large-displacement “5⁄7-ton” diesel truck. The Cummins engine in the Titan XD was originally meant for a Ram truck, but with the acquisition of Chrysler by Fiat (recently renamed FCA US), those plans were scrapped in favor of using a 3.0L V-6 engine that’s based on the A 630 diesel by VM Motori (a subsidiary of Fiat and former partner of GM). Even without the famous Cummins name, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has been a huge success, with production needing to be doubled just months after 8,000 requests were snapped up in the first three days of availability! So, it’s safe to say there are a lot of people willing to buy a diesel pickup that’s not a conventional heavy-duty ¾-ton, and there will be only one choice if they want to tow more than 9,200 pounds (no offense to the Ram 1500—it’s an excellent truck with exceptional fuel economy, as you can see in our first test of a regular cab vinyl-floored model on page 60).
Will the Titan XD be a major hit and upend the competition? I can’t wait to find out. Maybe it will hit a sweet spot and create a whole new class of in-between trucks that are not what we are accustomed to calling either a ½-ton or ¾-ton truck. Ford and GM have tried that before with the Chevy/GMC 1500HD and the Ford F-250LD/F-150 7700. Those didn’t catch on, but maybe a diesel engine would have changed those outcomes. There’s no way to know until it happens. That’s the excitement of a potential disrupter; the product could be a game-changing service like Uber, or it could be like the $100-million “IT Project,” the much-hyped enterprise that promised to revolutionize personal transportation, except it turned out to be the Segway scooter.