It was always going to be an uphill slog for the Nissan Titan.
Though Nissan's first full-size pickup was never going to challenge the mighty Ford F-150 or put up six-figure sales numbers like the other competitive trucks from Ram, Chevrolet and GMC, the Titan could have created a sustainable niche for itself had it been anything more than just an average vehicle.
Average won't work in the brutally competitive full-size pickup market.
A truck needs to stand out in some compelling way. But the Titan never claimed best in class in any of the metrics that truck buyers really care about — towing, hauling, stopping, fuel economy, luxury features, etc.
If you look at the F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500, each has some unique feature or capability that can't be had on other trucks.
Arguably, nobody makes a classier interior than Ram. You want to haul something massively heavy, an F-150 is just the tool for the job. The industry's quietest, most fuel-efficient diesel engines live under the hoods of the Silverado and Sierra.
What's the reason to choose a Titan over any of these competitors? The Titan checks the boxes to be present in the segment, but nothing more.
And that's what doomed it.
Now with the big truck being pulled from the Canadian market, the Titan's days on the production line may be limited. With even fewer sales to justify the Titan's existence, Nissan seems unlikely to make the huge investment needed in a next generation for it to be truly competitive.
But if there is a next-gen Titan, it must have at least one of these:
- The strongest frame under a truck that money can buy. That enables all sorts of things, such as leadership in towing and hauling (with an appropriate powertrain) and a more precisely tuned suspension system that improves handling and delivers a quieter, more refined ride. The current Titan needs all of this.
- An exquisitely designed interior — even on base models — that eschews large swaths of cheap-feeling plastic and makes buyers feel special. And that interior must be equipped with a full slate of easy-to-use electronic features.
- A choice of powertrains, from a beefy six-cylinder turbo — for those who want fuel economy and the ability to have a neck-snapping jolt of acceleration when they press the accelerator — to a V-8 with at least 450 hp and 500 pound-feet of torque.
- Really compelling styling. And this may be the toughest challenge of all. I have no doubt Nissan can build a technically advanced truck that is powerful and refined enough to compete with domestic makes, but the Titan's styling always has been nondescript, cribbing a little from Ford here and there but never standing out as a beautiful truck that a real enthusiast would be proud to own and show off.
Ram, with its luxurious interior and coil spring rear suspension, outsold the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time last year and is proof that at least some fiercely loyal truck buyers will change brands.