Nissan once marketed its legendary 300ZX under the banner of "Z®. The last word in sports cars." Today at the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Nissan revealed the aT (alpha T) Concept, which just might become the first word in full-size pickups. The aT Concept is a radical design exercise, one of several created to stimulate consumer discussion while clearly marking the intent of Nissan's upcoming entry into the full-size truck market. The show truck is a follow-up to last spring's announcement that Nissan will produce a full-size, V8-powered U.S.-assembled truck model within the next few years.
"The aT Concept pushes the envelope of contemporary pickup truck styling," said Carlos Ghosn, president, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (NML). "Our message to the public is that Nissan is serious about entering the full-size truck market in a big way - both in size and impact."
The Latest Chapter in a Storied Truck History
Nissan has been credited with popularizing the compact pickup in North America, going back to 1959 when the first 37-horsepower Datsun pickup was sold in the United States. As buyers discovered that the small trucks were easy to maneuver, fun to drive and could be used for play as well as work, their popularity grew.
Over the next four decades, Nissan continued its leadership in the segment, introducing a number of compact truck innovations including the first half-ton compact (1969), the first long bed compact (1975), the first extended cab (1977), the first U.S.-produced import nameplate compact (1983) and one of the first factory-installed superchargers in a compact truck (2001).
The aT Concept continues another Nissan tradition - innovative concept trucks - following the futuristic Gobi concept truck (1990) and the recent SUT™ (Sport Utility Truck) Concept (1999).
The addition of a full-size pickup expands Nissan's light truck lineup, which currently includes Frontier and Frontier Crew Cab models with an available 210-horsepower supercharged V6, the 250-horsepower Pathfinder and award-winning Xterra sport utility vehicles and the Quest minivan. A full-size sport utility vehicle, sharing the same platform as the full-size pickup, has also been confirmed for future production.
aT Styling: Industrial Look and Power
While the trend in full-size trucks in recent years has been to become more and more car-like in look and feel, the designers of the Nissan aT Concept sought a strong, industrial feel, drawing inspiration from high-end power tools and other mechanical designs.
"The aT Concept's appearance may be a little startling to those who have come to view trucks as sedans with an open trunk," said Shiro Nakamura, design director, NML. "Following our tradition of building authentic, hard working, hard playing pickups like the 2001 Nissan Frontier, we want to appeal to the true truck lover's desire for a big, powerful, aggressive looking vehicle with more than just a little edge to it."
The aT Concept's exterior features a massive front grille, bumper and headlights, scooped hood, an aggressive 4-door body with butterfly open doors for easy access, a sharply sloped A-pillar, unique glass panel roof treatment with personalized opening sections, retractable rear window and side step rails, a deep bed with low-hinged electronic tailgate, large 22.5-inch alloy wheels and 265/60R22.5 off-road style tires.
Inside the pickup bed are numerous tie-down points and a power-operated slide-out bed floor (usable with the tailgate down). A tool box compartment is integrated into the tailgate.
"The aT Concept evokes a sense that it can work hard and play harder - it's a lifestyle necessity rather than an accessory," said Nakamura. "The bed is not unlike a Swiss Army Knife - an essential tool for a variety of activities."
Interior Design: Maximum Space and Utility
Inside the aT Concept's cab is a combination of extraordinary spaciousness and human touches. It includes a series of well-organized compartments and storage spaces. The instrument panel gives a feeling of space with clear information - provided by a retractable multi-function screen with navigation system. The brushed aluminum steering wheel gives an authentic truck feel and a large transmission shifter and tension sensitive armrests add a level of functionality necessary for the full-size truck driver. The seats are covered in saddle leather for a rugged, yet luxurious, look.
The rear compartment features a fold-down table and armrest and its own climate control system. Interior lighting is similar to the concept sedan which debuted at the 2000 Paris Auto Show.
"Full-size truck owners use their trucks' cabs like they do a tool belt - a place for everything and everything in its place," continued Nakamura. "The aT Concept's interior is every bit as imaginative as its bold exterior."
The Promise of True Performance
The aT Concept promises performance to match its powerful appearance, with a 300-horsepower 4.5-liter V8 engine, rugged suspension, 4-wheel drive and 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
"As a design exercise, the aT Concept can only hint at the aggressive performance targets we're developing for our production full-size pickup," said Mr. Ghosn. "We are committed that the truck's performance will meet or exceed that of both current domestic and import branded trucks. Following our strong heritage in the compact truck market, when it comes to the new big Nissan truck we will not be content to follow the crowd."