DETROIT (AP) – Nissan Motor Co. rolled into the full-size truck market Tuesday with its offering called the Titan, a hulking truck that the company’s chief executive said will play an important role in the automaker’s ongoing turnaround.

“We’ve had some good vibrations coming from the Titan,” said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn after the new truck made its debut at the North American International Auto Show. “It’s good to start like this. When you start like this, chances that it’s going to be a commercial success are very high.”

Nissan will compete in a market long dominated by domestic pickups from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC and Dodge. The first foreign challenger, the Toyota Tundra, entered the mix a few years ago and has done well for the Japanese automaker.

The Titan has a towing capacity of up to 9,400 pounds and features door handles, control knobs and a steering wheel designed for easy operation while wearing work gloves.

The 2004 model has a 5.6-liter, V-8 engine with more than 300 horsepower.

But it also has luxury touches, such as a driver’s seat memory system, heated front seats and adjustable cupholders. The rear doors can be opened 180 degrees rearward.

The truck will be in showrooms late this year. Pricing has not been established.

The Titan will be built at Nissan’s new manufacturing facility in Canton, Miss., a $1.43 billion investment for a company that was on the brink of bankruptcy just a few years ago.

Under Ghosn’s leadership, Nissan has achieved a striking turnaround that began in 1999 under an alliance with Renault, the French company that owns 44.4 percent of Nissan.

Before the arrival of Ghosn, who moved to Nissan from Renault, Nissan had lost money in the last seven years out of eight as it tried to keep up with Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s top automaker, in product lineup and market share.

Nissan has returned to profitability through selling off money-losing businesses and cutting costs by sharing parts and research with Renault.

In November, Nissan reported a 25 percent rise in profit for the first half of its fiscal year as sales rose 10 percent. The results marked a company record for the fifth straight fiscal half-year.

Nissan is in the middle of a three-year revival plan that calls for selling one million more cars in three years, achieving industry-leading profit margins and eliminating debt.

Ghosn said the company has accomplished its goal for profit margins and should be debt free in the next year. The company’s automotive debts totaled $19 billion four years ago.

Ghosn said Nissan has plans to sell 250,000 passenger cars in China by 2006, but more importantly in the near term is the success of its products in the U.S., such as the Titan, 350Z, Altima and Infiniti G35.

Here at the Detroit auto show, Ghosn said, “you’ve seen some very important products that are the fruit of the revival plan.”

Mike Wall, an industry analyst with the forecasting firm IRN Inc., said the prospects for Nissan look good. He said the Titan, at about the size of Ford’s popular F-150 pickup, has the potential to be a solid product.

“It’s kind of hard to find anything negative to say about their lineup,” Wall said. “Of all the automakers, it’s one of the best around right now.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.