At a time when most trucks sold in America are getting bigger and heavier, Nissan is planning to reintroduce a small, efficient, inexpensive truck just like those that sparked the mini truck craze years ago. Back in the 90’s, the Nissan Hard Body, based on the D22 chassis, was just such a truck, and a version of that platform, designated NP300, is still being built in Mexico today. Nissan is reportedly busy updating the NP300 platform to underpin a new small truck for the US market.
According to The Truth About Cars, getting a 30 year old design to meet current safety and emissions standards is not an easy task. But Nissan thinks a business case can be made for a smaller, lighter truck that costs less money and gets good gas mileage. For comparison, the current Frontier Crew Cab sold in the US weighs 4,500 lbs, while the comparable Crew Cab model built on the NP300 chassis tips the scales at a mere 3800 lbs. Those 700 lbs saved can boost gas mileage significantly, as Ford is finding out with the 2015 F-150.
There is no doubt that Nissan is bucking the trend here. The conventional wisdom is that buyers don’t want a smaller truck, that it is too hard to make such a vehicle meet current regulatory standards and that profit margins are too slim for it to be commercially viable here. Ford and Chrysler have abandoned the small truck market, though GM is still making a go at it with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, but up until now, they’ve been alone.
But Nissan thinks there is opportunity in filling a niche market. After all, not everyone needs a truck that can tow a 30′ camping trailer, two horses or a small yacht. No, what we want is a small, nimble, inexpensive truck that can do all the chores we need a truck for but doesn’t require a tankful of fuel every time it leaves the driveway. Heck, we might even be willing to crank the windows ourselves and sit on a cloth seat to get it.
Nissan also has its eye on ever tightening US CAFE rules. Those big trucks Americans love so much guzzle a lot of gasoline, making it hard for manufacturers to meet tougher government standards.
Is Nissan crazy, or are they on to something here?