Nissan Going Commercial: Armada, QX56 SUVs, Quest Minivan to Make Way for New NV-Series Vehicles
Nissan's NV2500 Concept Highlights Automaker's Coming Shift From Light Trucks to Commercial Trucks
Nissan is about to transform its Canton, Mississippi, assembly plant from light trucks to commercial trucks. The Nissan Quest minivan, Armada and Infiniti QX56 SUVs will be phased out in 2010 when the Japanese automaker begins building at Canton a 2011 model year truck based on the Cummins-powered NV2500 concept. Nissan also is looking into the small delivery-truck business that Ford hopes to transform with its European Transit Connect scheduled for sale in North America this summer. The Nissan Titan light-duty pickup truck, introduced for the 2004 model year, will be replaced with a 2011 model built on the Dodge Ram chassis in a Mexican Chrysler plant, presuming the American automaker is still in business.
Except for its high-concept interior features, the NV2500 looks virtually production-ready. Nissan has contracted with longtime heavy-duty Dodge Ram supplier Cummins for diesels and with ZF for transmissions. Nissan, offering no peek under the hood, describes the NV2500's engine only as a V-8 and the ZF automatic as a five-speed. Nissan expects to build diesel and V-8 gas-engine variations, and perhaps a gas V-6 version, as well.
Bruce Campbell and his Nissan Design America crew in La Jolla, California, drew the NV2500 concept liveried for the non-profit Habitat for Humanity. Concept-truck bling includes a solar glass-panel roof that powers the interior lights, equipment, and accessories, including a ceiling fan. It has storage compartments integrated into the doors, vertical 60/40 rear "barn doors" with more storage compartments, and a power rear step.
The interior is split into three zones. The driver/passenger zone has a wide instrument panel with customizable navigation/audio/climate display, an overhead storage console with visor shelves, and center shelves. A lighted storage closet behind the driver's seat can accommodate hardhats, flashlights, and work boots, and there's a mudroom-like grated drainage floor. The wide front-passenger seat swings on a sliding arm to face backward toward a worktable.
The second zone includes an oversized computer monitor with a laser-projected "easy clean" keyboard. The third zone is a conference center and cargo bay and holds a fold-down workshop table with a recycled bamboo surface. It can flip 180-degrees to serve as a standing-height, exterior table, illuminated by awning lights. There are 110/220-watt power outlets and areas for built-in shop vacuum air hoses. Sustainable wood slats on the opposite wall can be used for tying down cargo.
Obviously, Nissan will sell more of these as basic, steel-interior trucks to be outfitted for plumbing or construction subcontractor work.
The truck also could be built with windows and seats for shuttle-bus use. Direct competitors would be Ford's E-van and Dodge's Mercedes-designed Sprinter. Built on a modified Titan all-steel, fully boxed ladder frame, the NV2500 eschews the competitions' cab-over design for a monospace with a separate "conventional" engine compartment, which offers better inherent stability.
Riding on Michelin tires and 20-in. wheels, the NV2500 is 196.4 in. long on a 147.6-in. wheelbase. Interior cargo length is 126.0 in., height, 69.0 in. The truck is 79.6 in. wide and 96.1 in. tall. Front suspension is double-wishbone with a solid rear axle and leaf springs.
Nissan also shows the NV200 concept from the 2007 Tokyo motor show as a potential commercial model for the States. It serves notice to small businesses and to Ford that it intends to sell a smaller-than Transit Connect for florists, bakeries, and the like. Built on Nissan's B-car platform, like the Versa, the concept is set up for a marine biologist/underwater photographer and uses Nissan's "patented sliding cargo pod," a kind of California Closets device in which you pull the gear out from the back hatch. Powered by a clean diesel engine, it also has a mobile office and IT dock. A more conventional empty-box NV200 could be built with or without windows, the former for small people-moving/new-age taxi duties.
While it's not the best time to be launching vehicles for any new segment, Nissan notes that the calendar year launch of its first North American commercial truck comes on its 75th anniversary of producing such trucks; the first was a Japanese-market model in 1935. Now it plans three new North American commercial vehicles in three years beginning in '10, in multiple segments up to Class 5. Nissan estimates it will have 250 to 300 dealers in the U.S. (Nissan has 1070 passenger-car dealers here). With up to one million commercial vehicles sold in the U.S. each year (probably 800,000 last year), it's another tough market segment. But it has better potential than Nissan's recent attempt to break into the big American pickup-truck market.