Nis­san Ti­tan’s tow rat­ing beats Tun­dra’s by nearly 2,000 pounds

Cape Breton Post - - Wheels - BY KELLY TAY­LOR WHEELS Kelly Tay­lor is a vet­eran, award-win­ning au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ist and mem­ber of AJAC (Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada). road­noises@out­

It’s just af­ter noon on a rare hot, sunny day in the Muskoka re­gion when we pull into Park­ers Ma­rina near Win­der­mere, Ont.

We’re in a 2017 Nis­san Ti­tan XD tow­ing a 23-foot Master­craft speed­boat and our task is to launch the boat.

Now the launch at Park­ers isn’t tiny, but I have seen big­ger. Look­ing out past the boat and with per­spec­tive work­ing against me, it al­most looks as though the trailer won’t fit.

Sure enough, back­ing to­ward the ramp with my hand on the lower part of the wheel — so I can move my hand to­wards where I want the boat to go — it soon be­comes ap­par­ent the trailer will fit. Just.

About an hour ear­lier, we hooked up the Ti­tan to the trailer and quickly re­al­ized that sound we had just heard was the collective truck world do­ing one mas­sive facepalm.

The Ti­tan has a unique fea­ture so fun­da­men­tal to tow­ing one can’t help but think the Ford, Chevy, GMC, Ram and Toy­ota truck de­sign­ers are scram­bling to their cu­bi­cles ask­ing them­selves, “Why the heck didn’t we think of that?”

If you’ve ever towed, you know how it goes. You hook up the trailer — cross­ing the safety ca­bles un­der the tongue, in­sert­ing the lock pin to keep the hitch from un­seat­ing from the ball, plug­ging in the lights — and then call into the house for help check­ing the trailer lights.

If you’re alone, it’s even worse: turn the sig­nal on, run to be­hind the trailer, run back to the cab, turn the other sig­nal on . . .

What if you could do that from the key fob? With Ti­tan, you stand be­hind the trailer and push the lock but­ton once and then push and hold it till the horn sounds again. At that point, the truck cy­cles through both turn sig­nals and the brake lights. Some­times the sim­plest things are the most bril­liant.

For the drive up here, the diesel-pow­ered Ti­tan XD we’re driv­ing is merely snack­ing on the job of tow­ing this boat. On ac­cel­er­a­tion, it’s easy to for­get you’re tow­ing.

To­day, hav­ing the rear cam­era po­si­tioned di­rectly above the hitch is the bench­mark for trucks and back-up cam­eras. Ti­tan goes a step fur­ther, pro­ject­ing a cen­tre line to make back­ing into a trailer’s tongue even eas­ier. It eases ad­just­ing for cen­tre when you’re ap­proach­ing at an an­gle.

Un­for­tu­nately, while the side mark­ings in the cam­era view turn to project the truck’s path as you turn the wheel, the cen­tre line does not. Such would be the cat’s meow.

Nis­san has got a tough nut to crack sell­ing Ti­tan. The pre­vi­ous model barely scratched the truck mar­ket’s sur­face with about a one per cent share. It’s just not a go-to brand the way Ford, GM and Ram have be­come.

The first step was de­sign­ing a truck that’s com­pet­i­tive with the Big Three. The sec­ond step is find­ing unique ways to mar­ket it.

Key to both is per­haps the Ti­tan XD. More than a 1500-se­ries, less than a 2500-se­ries, “it’s the white space in the mar­ket,” said Nis­san spokesman Di­dier Marsaud. “It is for the pickup buyer who is look­ing for just a lit­tle bit more.”

That lit­tle bit more isn’t in­signif­i­cant, as the XD with the Cum­mins V-8 tur­bod­iesel is rated to tow 12,010 pounds. That doesn’t beat the high­est avail­able rat­ings for F-150 or Sil­ver­ado, but it does put Ti­tan into the ball­park, and it’s worth point­ing out those ri­vals don’t have a diesel op­tion.

Ram does, how­ever. Per­haps most im­por­tantly, Ti­tan’s top tow rat­ing beats Toy­ota Tun­dra’s by nearly 2,000 pounds.

Nis­san launched the new truck with only the XD model to start. The Ti­tan (with­out the XD) came this year.

Still, in a mar­ket where a Nis­san isn’t the first, sec­ond or third truck to come to mind, hav­ing a com­pet­i­tive prod­uct isn’t enough. Mar­ket­ing re­quires find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to over­come pre­con­ceived no­tions and get peo­ple to at least look at it.

“When they are be­hind the wheel, a big, big part of our job is done,” Tap­pin­der Jhajj, Nis­san Canada’s prod­uct man­ager for trucks and SUVs, said. “We have a very strate­gic ap­proach — we’re not in­sane about it think­ing we’ll sell 10,000 a month — but our ap­proach is to tar­get mar­kets where we think we can steal some cus­tomers away.

“In the ur­ban mar­kets, you might have a very suc­cess­ful in­di­vid­ual with a Mercedes or BMW who needs some­thing to tow his boat, or what­ever. For him to look at a Nis­san isn’t scary, it’s right up his al­ley.”

Nis­san is tar­get­ing five to six per cent of the truck mar­ket, a five- to six-fold in­crease over the pre­vi­ous model’s mar­ket share.

A part­ner­ship with BoatSMART!, which bills it­self as Canada’s largest provider of boat­ing ed­u­ca­tion and li­cens­ing, is a part of that strat­egy. BoatSMART! uses Nis­san trucks ex­clu­sively for its events in Cen­tral Canada, and en­cour­ages par­tic­i­pants to see and drive the ve­hi­cles. For the rest of Canada, BoatSMART!’s re­la­tion­ship is on­line, but ev­ery per­son who ac­quires a per­sonal craft op­er­at­ing com­pe­tency card through BoatSMART! gets a dis­count of­fer for Nis­san ve­hi­cles.

“There are about 150,000 cer­tifi­cates ob­tained each year in Canada, and we’re by far the largest provider,” said Cam Tay­lor, pres­i­dent of BoatSMART! and its re­lated com­pa­nies. “It’s a pretty big pool of qual­i­fied leads we give to Nis­san.”

On the flip side, Nis­san cus­tomers get in­for­ma­tion about BoatSMART!, so the re­la­tion­ship flows both ways.

In­ter­est­ingly, Nis­san has dis­pensed with the loss-leader ap­proach — ad­ver­tise a base­model truck in the low to mid $20s and up­sell buy­ers to the mid-$40,000s, which is the typ­i­cal trans­ac­tion price in Canada. In­stead, Nis­san is of­fer­ing trucks al­ready well-equipped and al­ready in the mid-$30,000s to high $50,000s.

That com­bi­na­tion of pric­ing and con­tent is com­pet­i­tive with the mod­els most likely driv­ing off Big Three dealer lots. The base-model Big Three truck is pri­mar­ily aimed at fleet buy­ers, even if it does of­fer deal­ers a loss-leader ad­van­tage.

The top Ti­tan base price, for the plat­inum diesel ver­sion, is $76,500.

The Ti­tan was de­signed, tested and built in North Amer­ica, and comes with a fair bit of Cana­dian con­tent, as well. Steve Moneypenny from Bramp­ton, Ont., de­signed the in­te­rior while Van­cou­ver’s Randy Ro­driguez, who has since left Nis­san, penned the ex­te­rior.


The 2017 Nis­san Ti­tan XD is avail­able with two en­gines: a 5.6-litre V-8 gaso­line and a 5.0-litre Cum­mins V-8 turbo diesel.

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