Future Nissan Armada Defies Trend Toward Downsizing


  • 2013 Nissan Armada Picture

    2013 Nissan Armada Picture

    The future Nissan Armada won't be part of the auto industry's downsizing movement. | August 26, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • The upcoming redesigned Nissan Armada won't be downsized in an effort to reduce mass and vehicle weight, Edmunds has learned.
  • The Armada, a truck-based, eight-passenger SUV, is something of a rarity on new-car lots and that apparently won't change with the redesign.
  • Nissan is not saying when the redesigned Armada will go on sale, but industry sources point to 2015 or 2016.

IRVINE, California — Despite tougher regulations that require better fuel economy, the upcoming redesigned Nissan Armada won't be downsized in an effort to reduce mass and vehicle weight, Edmunds has learned.

Simply, there is a group of buyers who demand a big SUV and won't settle for less. The Armada, a truck-based, eight-passenger SUV, is something of a rarity on new-car lots these days.

"This customer needs the size and the towing," said Rich Miller, Nissan North America's chief product specialist for the Nissan Titan pickup truck and Armada. "That means we have to get innovative on how we are going to get our fuel economy improved.

"There are lots of ways out there. Right now (nearly) everything is on the table. But size is not on the table for that vehicle because that is the key purchase reason for that customer."

The redesigned Armada is midway through the development process, he said.

The SUV will share a body-on-frame platform with the redesigned 2015 Nissan pickup.

While Miller would not say when the redesigned Armada will go on sale, industry sources point to 2015 or 2016.

Over the past years, disappointing fuel economy, high gasoline prices and the recession have taken a toll on big SUV sales. Miller estimates the full-size SUV market at 275,000 to 300,000 annual sales, but "it was much higher before the recession in 2007."

"The segment has flattened out, but it is a very profitable segment," he said during an interview at a Nissan event in California.

The segment is made up of such vehicles as the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia, rear-drive vehicles with all-wheel or four-wheel-drive capability.

"There is a customer out there that can't go to another vehicle," Miller said. "They have three kids, a little bit larger family. They have outdoor activities, hiking, camping, hunting and boating that they do with their family. They need a vehicle that can haul the family, the family dog, all their equipment, and still tow. They can't buy anything smaller."

Miller said the automaker is looking at a number of methods to boost fuel economy, such as lighter-weight materials and boosting the number of transmission speeds.

The two-wheel-drive 2013 Armada is equipped with a 5.6-liter V8 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. The SUV is rated at 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway by the EPA. The four-wheel-drive model of the Armada is rated at 12 mpg in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway.

Improved aerodynamics is under review, such as air deflectors and ground effects under the vehicle, Miller said.

General Motors is expected to offer an eight-speed automatic transmission when its redesigned full-size SUVs go on sale next year.

However, although the redesigned 2015 Titan pickup will be available with a 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine, Miller said there are no plans at this point to offer that engine in the Armada.

Edmunds says: Although big, beefy SUVs are not as popular as they once were, Nissan acknowledges there are still buyers who need the versatility and strength of such a vehicle as it redesigns the Armada.

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