Article by Jacob Black. Photos courtesy of Nissan and by Autos.ca staff
Nissan’s new Titan/Titan XD pickup truck is a pretty big deal for a variety of reasons. First, this is only the second generation of a rig that’s been around since 2003. Second, it’s getting a Cummins diesel – something big truck owners have been goo-gah over for donkey’s years.
The Titan is an odd duck that doesn’t quite go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the segment from Ram, Ford and GM – but as I learned, that’s the point. After our comprehensive 2016 Nissan Titan Preview we were excited to quiz two of the biggest names in Titan land to help explain their approach.
Rich Miller and Jeff Caldwell, two key figures in the Titan’s development, came to Toronto in February to give the press a rundown of Titan’s mission and why Nissan is now supplying a the diesel engine alongside its regular gas-powered V8.
There was a palpable connection between Rich and Jeff, who I quickly learned were both genuine truck guys – each with their own sordid truck history.
Rich Miller, Chief Product Specialist for the Titan program and Director of Product Planning for Trucks and SUVs at Nissan North America, has been with Nissan for 20 years and was involved in Titan from the outset. “I’ve been a truck guy my whole life, and I worked on the original Titan from when he [he really said “he”] was just a sketch on the back of an envelope and a concept we were kicking around,” Miller enthuses. “My team was the one that went out and studied the customer and the segment to understand, ’are we going to be in this segment or not?’
“I’ve been with Nissan 20 years and I have 15 years working on Titans. There’s a lot of heritage here.”
To understand just how passionate Miller and Caldwell are about their trucks, and to get a sense of the sort of thought process behind the new Titan, we have to skip forward to late in my interview when I asked the duo, “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done in a truck?”
“My first truck was a two-wheel-drive truck,” Miller begins, a wry smile forming on his face. “When I was born, that truck drove me from Phoenix to our house in Washington. When I had that truck in college, I decided I wanted to find a good place to have a party. And I was out in the desert and I took the truck down a hill that was way too steep.
“When you go in some place, you gotta know you can get out. Well, I drove that truck down a steep, rocky granite slope in my two-wheel-drive truck with nothing in the back.
“This old, old desert rat pulls up at the top of the grade and looks down, and he says, ’Boy, you are stuck.’ He looked down at me, and I think he had one tooth, and he said, ’You are stuck down there and you are about 100 miles from anything.’
“I’m in the middle of the desert, in the mountains in Phoenix, and he said, ’The only way you’re getting out is to fill that thing with rocks, put it in low gear, and pray that they don’t bust in your back window and crash in on you, but that’s the only way you’re going to get out. Shocks are cheaper than a wrecker!’
“I remember him saying that as I’m going up the hill. And it made it, which was exciting but stupid.