Twenty years on from its rescue by Renault, Nissan Motor is unrecogniseable from the heavily indebted firm which Louis Schweitzer, Carlos Ghosn and Yoshikazu Hanawa began rebuilding in 1999 with the creation of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. In the post-Ghosn era and with a proposed FCA-Renault merger under discussion, what might the 2020s hold for Nissan?
The language used by Nissan and Renault’s CEOs to discuss where the Alliance goes next has recently become more amiable. Will it stay that way though? Moreover, FCA’s John Elkann moved quickly to state that neither Nissan nor Mitsubishi Motors was being sidelined. Far from it in fact as the larger of the two Japanese companies in particular offers not only scale to create would could end up being the world’s largest car making group, but many key assets.
One of those assets would be Nissan’s share of the intellectual property co-owned by the partners in the R-N-M Alliance, which, we should not forget, also includes Lada and Dacia. In short, what Fiat Chrysler needs most is access to state of the art technology for the FCA Italy side of the business. When it comes to electric vehicles, petrol and diesel engines and advanced vehicle platforms, Nissan Motor has much to offer.
Even though the Alliance has existed for more than two decades, still Renault and Nissan continue to retain certain platforms and to a lesser extent powertrains as their own. Most of these are either old technology or in the case of V6 and V8 engines, not needed on the Renault side of the group or specific to Nissan North America‘s operations. Examples include a body-on-frame platform for the Nissan TITAN pick-up and the XL-sized NV van and passenger van along with sophisticated and therefore not inexpensive architectures for Infiniti, some of which are JVs with Daimler.
What FCA would really benefit from if the merger with Renault ends up happening is the Alliance’s CMF vehicle architectures. There are various iterations but the basic package is based around a principle of front- and if necessary, all-wheel drive with engines and gearboxes shared, and the possibility of electrification. As was discussed in a recent report on future Infiniti vehicles, Nissan also has a bespoke platform for fully electric models which can be expanded into multiple vehicle size segments.
The main, existing CMF architectures are named A, B and C-D with EV to be added soon. C-D was the first to appear, which was in 2013, so the second generation – call it an evolution – isn’t far away either. The Common Module Family architecture consists of four variable modules: engine/electric propulsion system, cockpit, front underbody and rear underbody.
The latest generation of the Versa was revealed in April. In the US and Canada, the car, new for the 2020 model year, is a sub-compact sedan and retains the Versa name. In other markets, Nissan is likely to again sell this model as the Sunny, Almera, Tiida or Latio. The platform is CMF-B, as introduced by the Micra/March in 2017. The new Versa will likely be in production for seven to eight years, with a facelift due from early 2023 – production won’t start in some countries until 2020 so the mid-cycle update would therefore take place later in 2023.
The Note, another B segment model, is an especially important model for the Japanese market. The replacement is expected to use the Alliance’s CMF-B architecture and the car should be launched in Nissan’s home market within months. The life cycle should be seven years. Nissan is not expected to offer this model in the USA and it will also not be available in Europe as the current Note was not a success: it was withdrawn from production and sale two years ago.
Nissan’s major model in the global Compact/C segment has several names, the main ones being Sylphy, Sentra and Pulsar. A new generation of this car is due on sale in China imminently, to be followed by the North American region. The Sentra model name will naturally continue to be used in the Americas for the eighth generation car, as well as in Russia. Vehicles for China retain the Sylphy name, while the importers for Australia and other countries in Asia-Pac will instead retain the Pulsar name.
China’s Dongfeng Nissan joint venture was the first to reveal the new model, the car having been exhibited at the Shanghai motor show in April. Production is about to begin and should last until the second half of 2026. Facelifts in the countries where this model will be built should be rolled out from the first half of 2023.
The sixth generation generation of the Altima, a mid-size sedan for mainly North American and Asian markets made its world debut at the New York auto show in March 2018. The mid-cycle facelift should appear for the 2022 model year followed by a seventh generation car during CY2024.
The main engineering highlight was the appearance of Nissan’s 2.0-litre Variable Compression Turbo engine. This four-cylinder petrol unit, previously seen only under the bonnet of the Infiniti QX50, is the replacement for the fifth generation Altima’s 3.5-litre V6. Power and torque are stated as being 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft.
For the first time in an Altima, all-wheel drive is available, although not for cars powered by the VC-Turbo engine. Instead, the less expensive, less powerful 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine can be ordered with either FWD or AWD. This engine was also new for the Altima. It is rated at 188 horsepower (versus the previous 2.5-litre’s 179 hp) and 180 lb-ft of torque (versus the previous 177 lb-ft) and features what Nissan North America claims is “80% new or redesigned parts”.
In China, Thailand, Japan, Russia and certain other countries, the Teana model name is used. Meanwhile, Nissan Canada decided that it would not offer the VC-Turbo engine. Instead, all Altimas sold there from the 2019 model year onwards have a standard 2.5-litre engine in combination with all-wheel drive.
Two of Nissan’s US plants were the first to build the latest shape Altima, this commencing in August 2018, with China’s Dongfeng Nissan joint venture adding the car from late 2018. Oddly, Nissan continues to make the old shape model in Thailand.
Unlike some rivals, Nissan is staying in this segment, the Maxima being its main model in the size class. The current car, new for North America’s 2016 model year, had its world premiere at the New York auto show in April 2015.
The Maxima is powered by a 224kW/300hp 3,498cc V6. Maximum torque is 354Nm. Production commenced in April 2015. The USA is the car’s main market, as it always has been. Nissan North America revealed a facelifted Maxima (2019MY) at the Los Angeles auto show in November 2018.
While small scale assembly commenced at Dongfeng Nissan’s Xiangyang plant during the second half of 2016, the car has not been a success in China. The eventual replacement which is due in 2022 may become a crossover sedan in the style of the IMs concept from the 2019 Detroit auto show.
People movers might no longer be popular in many countries but they remain so in Japan, the fifth generation of the Serena being successful there for Nissan. Sales commenced in August 2016, so a facelifted model should arrive soon. Nissan Motor also supplies a version of the Serena to Suzuki’s Japanese market dealers.
The Serena NISMO had its world premiere at the Tokyo motor show in October 2017, as did the Serena e-Power which is an electric variant fitted with a range extender. The former went on sale in Japan during December 2017 and the latter in March 2018.
Nissan’s Malaysian partner, Tan Chong, began assembling the Serena in May 2018.
The Serena’s replacement is due for launch in Japan in 2022.
The replacement for Japan’s Fairlady Z and the rest of the world’s 370Z continues to be delayed. It should finally be on sale during 2020 and called 400Z (as well as Fairlady Z in Japan). Nissan had considered trying to merge the next Z with a replacement for the Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class but there was no business case as Daimler decided to axe that model due to the contraction of its segment.
The new Z will supposedly be based on the Infiniti Q60 although there should be a roadster version of the Nissan. The world premiere could take place at the next New York auto show.
The next generation of the GT-R was also been delayed until 2020, possibly later, though it might be revealed at the Tokyo motor show later in 2019, at least in prototype form. The R36 GT-R will be a hybrid.
Nissan revealed the Concept 2020 Gran Turismo at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed, and followed this with the slightly restyled and red-painted Concept Vision 2020 Gran Turismo at October 2015’s Tokyo motor show. Each is expected have provided a partial preview of the R36.
The successor for the Navara isn’t due until 2023. According to insiders, it will use an evolution of the current Mitsubishi L200/Triton platform. Other models to be based on this architecture will be the successors for the Renault Alaskan and of course the Triton as well as the next Pajero Sport.
The Titan, a larger pick-up, is, like its rival the Toyota Tundra, sold mostly in North America. The second generation model entered series production in November 2015 for North America’s 2016 model year. The XD, which was the first variant to be revealed, is in a segment that NNA sees between the traditional 1500 and 2500 classes (half ton and three quarter ton).
Gasoline-engined Titans would not go on sale until the second quarter of 2016, Nissan revealed in August 2015. These trucks premiered at the Detroit auto show in January 2016. They are powered by what was a new 5.6-litre Endurance V8. It produces 390hp, whereas the old unit of the same capacity had an output of 317hp. The Titan 5.6 and Titan XD 5.6 have a standard seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Nissan announced further details concerning the half-ton Titan in February 2016. New for North America’s 2017 model year, it is aimed at the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150 and Ram 1500. There are single cab, king cab, and crew cab bodies, and 5.5-, 6.5-, and 8-feet bed lengths. While the Titan and Titan XD look similar, the Titan Crew Cab is for example 14.7 inches shorter than the Titan XD Crew Cab and has an 11.8 inch shorter wheelbase. The 2017 Titan went on sale across North America in summer 2016. Single Cab variants did not become available until October 2016.
King Cab trucks debuted at the Chicago auto show in February 2017, new for the 2017 model year in Titan and Titan XD forms. There were no major changes for the 2018 model year. The same applied for the 2019 model year. A V6 engine will probably be added for the 2020 model year. There should then be facelifts for the 2021MY Titan and Titan XD and successors for the 2025 model year.
SUVs & crossovers
The Kicks, a small crossover, has little by little become an ever more important model for Nissan worldwide. There are in fact now two vehicles which use this name though: see below for the special one which is manufactured solely in India for that market.
Announced and revealed to the media in May 2016, the Kicks was at first just for Brazil, where it is a rival for the Ford EcoSport and others in the B-SUV segment. While the first plant to build it was in Mexico, Resende is also a production location. Brazilian build commenced in April 2017.
Sales began first in Brazil in August 2016, followed by Mexico, and Latin American left-hand drive markets later in fiscal year 2016 and then countries in the Persian Gulf. China’s Dongfeng Nissan joint venture began manufacture in June 2017, with local sales commencing one month later.
Nissan started exports from Mexico to the US and Canada in May 2018. Unlike the Juke which it replaced in Canada and the USA, the Kicks doesn’t have all-wheel drive. The next news should be a facelift towards the end of this year, with a successor due to arrive in 2023.
The other Kicks was released for sale in the Indian market in January. It is locally built and is both longer (4,384mm compared to 4,295mm) and on a different platform (B-Zero versus Alliance B) compared the older Kicks. Production should continue at the Oragadam plant until late 2025, with a facelift in 2022.
The second generation Juke will be based upon the Alliance’s CMF-B architecture. It should enter production during the fourth quarter. It is not clear why Nissan decided to allow the first generation car to become more than eight years old.
In September 2015, Nissan Europe confirmed the architecture and that Sunderland would be one of the plants building the next Juke. There should also be a Juke with a powertrain similar to that in the former Chevrolet Volt, which Nissan intends to call Pure Drive e-Power. This means drive will be to the front wheels via an electric motor with a back-up combustion engine.
The third generation of the Qashqai/Rogue Sport, which is due for market release from the third quarter of 2022, should use an evolution of the current model’s architecture. Like the second generation car, design and engineering work should be based in England, with Sunderland in the country’s northeast the main source of global build. Nissan confirmed in October 2016 that it would build the next Qashqai at Sunderland.
As is the case with the existing model, the next generation Qashqai will be sold in the USA as the Nissan Rogue Sport.
The next generation of the Rogue/X-Trail should use an update of the CMF C-D architecture upon which the current models are based. It is expected to be announced soon. More details can be found in PLDB (see link at end of this article).
The third generation Murano uses the same platform as the second generation one. Its world premiere was at the New York auto show in April 2014, with US market deliveries following from December 2014. A 260hp 3.5-litre V6 is the standard engine for North America. The region’s 2017 model year Murano was carried over with changes limited to packages. The same applied for the 2018 model year. The 2019 Murano, which had a facelift, premiered at the LA auto show in November 2018.
The fourth generation Murano – due in 2021 – will likely be twinned with the next Infiniti QX70.
Mitsubishi Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance issued a statement to the media as long ago as November 2013 concerning a proposed expansion of their mini-vehicle (‘Kei’) manufacturing joint venture.
The companies said at the time that they intended to “co-develop a new small-segment car including a specific electric version that can be sold globally. The basis for this product would be from a jointly-developed ‘Kei car’ platform of the type popular in the Japanese domestic market. Further details of all products, markets and manufacturing will be announced separately”. Fast forward to October 2017, which was when Mitsubishi stated that a kei EV project was still happening but that the release date for the production cars was now 2020.
Nissan engineers are said to be leading another EV project, this one being on a far larger scale, their brief being to develop a multi-model architecture. Renault and Mitsubishi will also have vehicles which use it. The platform’s first appearance was as the basis for the IMX concept at the 2017 Tokyo motor show. The unnamed architecture, which has a flat floor, will be used for small to large cars and SUVs. The first model is due on sale in 2020 and it might be an SUV around the same size as the Murano.
Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.
Future product program intelligence
More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE. There, details of many other Nissans not listed in the above report can be found. That includes the Dayz, Dayz Roox, Dayz Highway Star, Micra/March, Livina, Leaf, Lannia, Rich, Terra, Pathfinder, NV350 Caravan, Skyline, Cima, Fuga, Elgrand, Patrol/Armada and NV Passenger Van.
The final brand to be featured as part of the Groupe Renault and Nissan Motor series will be Mitsubishi. Other makes in this series have been Alpine and Renault, Dacia, Renault-Samsung, Lada, Datsun, Venucia and Infiniti.