The current Frontier debuted the same year YouTube was invented. Feel old yet?
Time flies when you’re having fun. Heck, even if you aren’t having a blast with your life (pity), the years still fly by at what feels like light speed. It’s a bit hard to grasp how long ago the year 2005 was, but to help the weary minded time travelers, here is a bit of context. Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans that year and left many people homeless, however the fortunate were then faced with more entertainment options as the Xbox 360 debuted and YouTube was invented.
The same year, Nissan decided to build the second generation Frontier pickup truck that was priced competitively with the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, and Toyota Tacoma. The midsized truck did its duty well, and in 2009 saw its latest refresh. At this time, the truck was already four years old and the refresh seemed like the usual tactic of keeping an aged vehicle up to date before the new one is out. If Nissan were to stick with the typical industry standard of upgrading a model line once every seven years, then the Frontier would have been replaced in 2012. This would have allowed the new Frontier to make it out just in time to snatch up sales from the Ford Ranger, which had taken a leave of absence just a year prior.
Despite the opportunity, things didn’t look good for the midsized pickup truck at the time, so it’s a bit hard to blame Nissan for its aged truck. High gas prices and the housing collapse hurt sales of all larger vehicles, especially those whose thirsty fuel economy ratings didn’t justify their level of utility. The 15-mpg Nissan Frontier was one such vehicle since it’s mileage matched larger and more capable competitors like the Toyota Tundra and the top selling Ford F-150. As a result, Nissan had no incentive to make things better with an upgrade. Like the slow selling Titan, it just kept on selling the Frontier until the passing days of the calendar led us to this point in time. Now, the 2016 Nissan Frontier is a truck that is severely outdated.
While it has the basic components to keep it capable enough for its expected workload, the technology on which the truck rides is over a decade old. It also looks like a relic of the past, both inside and out, which is only serving to keep Nissan as the underdog of the segment. Just a few years prior, there wasn’t too much incentive to invest money in a midsized truck, but times have changed and the sales figures tell it all. Nissan only sold 1,955 Frontiers in 2010 during the month of January. Six years later, 6,363 Frontiers rolled off of the Canton Mississippi assembly line for January. The boom is due to the fact that Americans really do have a taste for midsized pickup trucks when the economy is good, and it would do Nissan well to remember that.
One of the Frontier’s main competitors is the Toyota Tacoma, and things have been looking a bit different for that truck. In May of 2016, Toyota sold 16,544 Tacomas in the US while Nissan moved 7,941 Frontiers. In 2014, Nissan unveiled the latest generation of Frontier pickup truck and it seemed like an answer to these sales discrepancies. For better or for worse, it turned out that the pickup was never going to live the frontier life or see the suburban sprawl of US roads. Apparently Nissan thought that the third generation Frontier looked ill-suited to US buyers anyway, meaning that the Japanese automaker will need to think of a different US spec replacement quickly if it wants a chance at reclaiming sales from the Tacoma.
Like the Nissan Titan XD that debuted at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, the next generation Frontier should have present day fuel savings technology, allowing for four-cylinder efficiency and V6 or V8 towing capacity. A new face would compliment the truck and keep the styling current enough to make customers feel like Nissan actually thought about them. As far as the tardy truck manufacturer has let everyone know, the Frontier will keep selling in its current form for at least the next year. There’s no telling when the new Frontier will be released to the US public, but if Nissan doesn’t make it a priority, then its next generation of midsize pickups may be too little and too late to compete with Toyota's established crown and Ford's upcoming sales thief.