Memo to Toyota and Nissan: Get Out of the Full-Size Truck Business

2010 Nissan Titan

Can Japanese trucks compete with American trucks?

Japanese automakers have pretty much ruled the U.S. auto market for the past 30 years or so. Even with all that success, there remains one segment they haven’t been able to crack: full-size trucks.

When it comes to strength and brawn, the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Dodge Ram have seen the vast majority of American full-size truck buyers. If the Toyota Tundra has managed to make a small dent in the American armor, the Nissan Titan has barely been a rock chip.

Neither vehicle has captured the hearts of truck owners the way Japanese midsize sedans and SUVs have siphoned customers away from the Detroit Big 3.

I say it’s time for the Japanese automakers to just admit defeat and get out of the full-size truck segment altogether. I thought for a while Nissan was smartly going in that direction, when its plans to share a platform for the Titan with the Dodge Ram sank with Chrysler’s bankruptcy.

Now, though, there is news that Nissan has decided to keep the Titan for the foreseeable future. Carlos Tavares, Nissan Executive Vice President, told Straightline,

We didn’t consider stopping. When the Chrysler deal fell through, we immediately started on a truck of our own. We are committed to this market. We recognize that it’s an important part of this market, so we are not going to step out.

The rough translation of that: The truck market is very profitable, and we want a piece of the pie.

It’s probably safe to assume that the next Titan will share architecture with Nissan’s recently unveiled line of commercial vehicles, the NV2500. That van is built in the same Canton, Mississippi, plant as the Titan, so it stands to reason that’s where Nissan looked when the Dodge deal collapsed.

I don’t think it’s worth the effort, though. Full-size pickups are distinctly American beasts, and no one seems to understand them like the domestic automakers. Even I, a longtime supporter of Toyota trucks and foreign vehicles in general, think it’s time for the Japanese to focus their efforts where they can be most successful. It’s time for them to bail on the full-size truck fantasy.

Do you think the Tundra and Titan are as good as Ford, Chevy, and Dodge trucks? Can Japanese automakers ever be competitive in the full-size truck segment or should they bail?

-tgriffith

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4 Comments

  1. The views above reflect free market capitalism, patriotism, and value. The obvious answer to the question seems to be “whatever floats your boat”. I agree with all three views. I drove trucks for over 35 years and was motivated to buy based on the three views above at various times. To have the Japanese “just go away” seems a little silly to me because of the obvious biases that the public exhibits at the time of purchase. If you are a farmer or contractor you buy based on your needs. If you are an urbanite who likes to showcase his home to keep up with the Joneses, you buy because of utility. If you are a hunter or outdoorsman, you buy because of function.

    When one buys a lawnmower the same criteria apply. Do you buy a Honda or a Craftsman? We buy based on our needs and wants. Country of origin does not apply. It is the value or utility that most of us use to make that decision. In making that decision you know that you can throw out the Craftsman after a couple of seasons. Your Honda which costs twice as much usually lasts 2-3 times longer. So again its “whatever floats your boat”.

    The Japanese have an annoying practice of “packaging” which discourages domestic buyers because it limits their choices. The domestics are far more flexible in their packaging options that allows the individual to pay for what he wants instead of having the manufacturer dictate what it thinks is what you want. Both the Tundra and Titan follow this practice and I believe that is why their sales numbers are far less than what they could be. The domestics understand that this is a cultural thing while the Japanese think this is a nuts and bolts product and that costs dictate how a truck is made and marketed. In either case the more the merrier. One of the few times that we have choices and options.

  2. Not to get off the subject, but I just wish Ford, GM , & Dodge put the same emphasis on quality of cars as they do trucks. Each one of them say they have the longest lasting full-size pickup truck…just listen to the commercials. Why can’t they say that about their cars? This is the reason why I would choose a Nissan or Toyota truck; cause they have a long lasting track record with other vehicles.

  3. There’s a huge difference between trucks that are made to be trucks and trucks that are made to be profitable. Nissan and Toyota are lucky at this point because the people who buy their full size pickups didn’t get the to use as trucks. Phony trucks for phony Americans.

  4. Of course their trucks are as good as the US brands–better, according to many buyers. It sounds like you would just prefer them to depart because you like the American products better. Why shouldn’t the Japanese have their shot at this lucrative market?

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