Bakkies are big business in many parts of the world, but with increasing regulatory pressures driving manufacturers to more efficient vehicles, it’s inevitable that we will see more compact, car-based iterations in the future.
Ford is already close to launching its upcoming Focus-based Maverick, which will slot beneath the Ranger, while Chevrolet and Volkswagen are also known to be working on new compact pick-ups, which will be primarily aimed at South American markets. Hyundai, meanwhile, is working on a more upmarket unibody pick-up for the US, based on the Santa Cruz concept.
Now it appears that Nissan is also exploring its potential options for a smaller bakkie, which would slot beneath the Navara, but probably above NP200. In fact such a vehicle could possibly also replace the latter, which is currently only sold in South Africa.
In a recent interview, Australian website Carsguide.com.au asked Nissan’s senior vice-president of global planning, Ivan Espinosa, whether the Japanese carmaker was considering a smaller bakkie, or Ute as the Aussies call them.
“Yes, it is of interest, we’re always looking at the market and constantly monitoring trends as well as customer behaviour,” Espinosa told Carsguide.
He also acknowledged that such an opportunity exists in some global markets and that stricter emissions regulations would create a need for more efficient options.
“One way of solving that is through electrification, but the other is working on the weight and mass reduction.
“It’s one of the scenarios that you can imagine would come, maybe there’s a need for something more car-derived that could be of interest to customers. As we said, we are constantly looking at the market and exploring different alternatives.”
Another question would surround which vehicle to base such a new bakkie on.
If Nissan took a more upmarket approach then such a vehicle could share a platform with the Qashqai and X-Trail.
However, if Nissan was pitching it as a more affordable vehicle, then perhaps the company would do well to team up with Alliance partners Renault and Dacia for a new-generation Duster Oroch pick-up.
The current Oroch is based on the previous-generation Duster, but a newer version based on the latest model could make an ideal twin for an upcoming Nissan compact. Dacia recently announced a single cab bakkie version of the latest Duster, but at this stage there is no word on whether a double cab is on the cards.
While a single cab variant could potentially replace South Africa’s NP200, Nissan would have to look at a double cab package in order to appeal to global markets. And with most double cabs now costing more than R500 000 in SA, there is surely a gap here and elsewhere for more affordable options.