Forget a hybrid. Nissan has more ambitious plans.
The truck market is rapidly changing in 2022. New entrants like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz have breathed new life in the compact pickup segment, and the Ford F-150 Lightning will arrive later this year to usher in a new electrified era. Though it hasn't quite broken the market wide open, the 2022 Nissan Frontier is quietly a smash hit for the Japanese automaker. Speaking with Nissan at the 2022 Chicago Auto Show, CarBuzz learned how the brand is happy with its current truck offerings but openly aware of where the segment is heading.
Nissan showed up in the Windy City with three Frontier Concepts: Project 72X, Project Hardbody, and Project Adventure. "All three were built with the intention of using already available Nissan and Nismo accessories, with a few exclusions like the wheels," said Wade Willatt, manager of product planning, trucks Nissan North America. The automaker hopes Frontier owners will see these three concepts and apply elements from them to their own trucks.
Project Adventure in particular shows how owners can take their Frontiers, specifically the rugged Pro-X and Pro-4X trims, to the next level with Nismo off-road equipment. "We've seen a lot of positivity about the Pro-4X in particular with its capable off-road ability," said Willatt. "The Pro-X is for the customer who wants the off-road look but doesn't need to pay for the 4x4. The desire for those trims has exceeded our expectations."
Buyers are enjoying the Frontier's top trim levels more than Nissan initially expected, but that doesn't mean the company is ready to launch a more rugged trim above the Pro-4X. "We see a desire for Nissan to have a more aggressive vehicle. Pro-4X is very capable, but it's meant to be a daily driver," Willatt explained. "We had to retain that drivability. Customers can buy the Pro-4X and turn it into a more aggressive truck with the Nismo accessories."
"Midsize trucks, more so than full-size, have to span a broader application. People need a truck that can fit in their garage but still take on weekend adventures," Colin Price, product communications added.
So Nissan may not be ready to build a more hardcore off-road Frontier trim, but what about a smaller, more street-focused truck? Products like the Maverick and Santa Cruz haven't gone unnoticed by Nissan, and the automaker is already thinking of ways it can compete in the new compact truck segment.
"We did the Nissan Vision 2030 a few months ago. We had three concepts including the Surf-Out [pictured below]," Price referenced. "You can see there's clearly been discussions about something that size. And it's electric," he hinted. Perhaps we haven't seen the last of the stylish Surf-Out Concept? Nissan has not officially confirmed any plans for an electric pickup truck, but we wouldn't be shocked if some related news breaks sooner rather than later.