Nissan North America on Tuesday became the second Japanese brand – after Toyota – to enter the US full-size pickup truck market, just days after Ford launched a redesigned F-150, the segment’s market leader for about a quarter century.

The 2004 Titan was launched at a press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit by Nissan Motor Company president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“The new Titan is Nissan’s biggest vehicle and biggest statement yet,” said Ghosn. “There’s much on the line – a major financial investment, an extension of our growing brand and reputation, and our longstanding heritage of innovation and performance.”

Among the Titan’s claimed unique design features are the King Cab’s so-called ‘wide-open’ rear doors that open nearly 180 degrees for almost unlimited interior access, an industry-first factory-applied spray-in load bed liner, a lockable water-resistant bedside storage compartment and Nissan’s exclusive ‘Utili-track’ bed channel tie-down system that provides cargo hauling flexibility.

The Titan is scheduled to go on sale at more than 1,100 Nissan dealers nationwide in late 2003.

The Titan is built on an all-new truck platform with a newly designed ‘Endurance’ 5.6-litre DOHC V8 with ‘over 300’ horsepower and more than 375 lb-ft of torque, standard five-speed automatic transmission and a towing capacity of up to 9,400 pounds.

Though final numbers are not yet available, Nissan expects the use of advanced engine technology such as aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners, forged steel crankshaft, microfinished crankshaft and camshaft, molybdenum-coated pistons, six-bolt main bearing caps, and Super Silent single-stage timing chain to result in excellent fuel economy with no sacrifice of performance.

For 4×4 models, the Titan uses an advanced shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system with 2WD/4H/4LO modes with electronic control part-time transfer case.

An off-road package will also be available with a unique lower ratio Dana 44 axle, class-exclusive electronically activated locking rear differential (switch operated), off-road-style Rancho gas shock absorbers, large all-terrain tires, fog lights and lower radiator, fuel tank and transfer case skid plates.

The Titan has all-steel double wishbone front suspension and rigid leaf (dual rate) rear suspension with shackles mounted along the frame sides to eliminate below frame obstacles. The new pickup is available with 7.5×17 painted steel wheels and 245/75R17 tyres or 8.0×18 aluminum-alloy wheels and 265/70R18 tyres. Also available are 7.5×17 brushed aluminum-alloy wheels and 285/70R17 tyres as part of the off-road package.

Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is standard, along with four-wheel disc brakes with Bosch anti-lock.

The Nissan Titan will be available in both King Cab (extended single-row seating) and Crew Cab (double-row) models, with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive.

The Titan was conceived, developed, styled and engineered primarily in North America and will be assembled at Nissan’s new $US1.43 billion manufacturing facility in Canton, Mississippi.