Nissan Australia claims its faith in a petrol-only Nissan Patrol has paid off and that the US-market, Titan, is still on the wish-list for Australia.
By Dave Morley: It wasn’t exactly an I-told-you-so moment, but Nissan’s Australian boss is claiming that the company’s faith in a petrol-only Patrol off-roader was the right choice all along.
While the car-buying population shook its collective head at the news back in 2013 that the new, Y62 Patrol would not be available with a diesel powerplant option, Nissan pressed ahead anyway. That meant the 5.6-litre petrol V8 or nothing (until stocks of the old GU with its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel dried up) and, back then, the conventional wisdom was that the V8 Patrol would simply be too thirsty to run.
And while that’s still the case for some out there, Nissan Australia MD, Stephen Lester claims the company’s faith in the product is starting to pay off.
“It (the lack of a diesel engine) is markedly less of a problem,” he told us at a media conference this week.
“The reality is that the market has changed. The mindset (on diesel) has changed.”
“When you look at the case of somebody towing a big caravan, the fuel consumption difference (between petrol and diesel) is negligible.”
We’re inclined to believe that there’s still fair divide between the two fuels when it comes to range in bush running (especially in sand and mud) but it’s also true that the market does see the Patrol differently these days. Of course, that’s not all about running costs, there’s no question that diesel has lost some of its sexy gloss lately, mainly as a result of Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, reservations over the reliability of common-rail technology, DPF issues and increasing awareness of the reality of diesel-engine tailpipe emissions.
Mr Lester backed up his argument with sales numbers that show the Patrol has gone from selling about 650 units in Australia in 2017 (the year after the GU finally disappeared from showrooms) to almost 2000 units this year. And while that’s a three-fold increase, it kind of ignores the fact that the turbo-diesel V8 LandCruiser 200 Series sold more than 13,500 units in 2018; more than ten times the sales the Patrol managed the same year.
The new Nissan Patrol, still with 5.6-litre petrol power only, should hit showrooms before Christmas this year. Meantime, if a petrol Patrol needed some philosophical re-alignment, then Nissan might be about to really test its customers’ faith.
Rumours persist that the full-size, US-market Nissan Titan could be headed Down Under. While refusing to confirm or deny the rumours either way, Mr Lester told Unsealed 4X4 that “…we still think it would go gangbusters”.
“Petrol is still the dominant fuel in the USA, and it could work here.”
That will still require a huge shift in thinking, though, as the 5.6-litre V8 petrol in the Titan 2.5-tonne (in dual-cab four-wheel-drive form) would certainly be no fuel-sipper.
And while there’s currently a five-litre turbo-diesel V8 in the Stateside Titan, that option is about to be dropped for the upcoming new model. The other hurdle facing the Titan, of course, is that it’s not built in right-hand-drive form anywhere. That would mean a conversion would be necessary and engineering such a massive alteration to Nissan’s OE engineering standards would be a huge job. But, as HSV has proven with its conversion of RAM Trucks from left to right-hand-drive, it can be achieved locally.
Which begs the next question: Would Nissan’s local, OE-standard skunk-works, Premcar (the operation that is involved in a new variant of the Navara – stay tuned) be a starter to handle Titan conversions?
“Technically speaking,” Mr Lester allowed, “Premcar could convert for us.”
Which, while falling well short of confirmation, was more forthcoming than Premcar’s chief engineer, Bernie Quinn who point-blank refused to comment.