For OEMs, promoting a competitive advantage is just as vital as protecting innovative technologies on vehicles—especially on high-profit trucks.
“There’s been a big push for us to make sure we’re patenting our ideas/our parts,” Rich Miller, director of product planning for trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles at Nissan North America, told Automotive Engineering during the 2017 Chicago Auto Show.
He noted that innovations are the lifeblood of engineering, which in turn is the heartbeat of marketing. “We always have tried to patent things, but sometimes there are things that are patentable that we didn’t think we could patent,” said Miller. “Then we would see competitors patenting similar ideas. So we want to make sure we’re doing that now.”
Case in point: the first-generation Titan pickup launched in late 2003. Its factory sprayed-on bedliner and cargo tie-down channels were novel offerings, noted Fred Diaz, Vice President and General Manager of trucks and light commercial vehicles. Those features showed that "even in the truck industry Nissan can be innovative and come up with some really cool things.”
Miller and Diaz anticipate similar patentable actions on the current-generation Titan. The 2017 King Cab version, revealed at Chicago, completes the truck's body style lineup. Rear doors on the King Cab open nearly 180° thanks to an innovative rear hinge. The first-gen Titan broke similar ground with a patented door hinge that opened 168°; Miller noted that the latest hinge is a re-engineered version of the original.
The new King Cab is offered with a rear seat or none at all, a claimed segment-first option. (GM's midsize pickups offer a rear-seat-delete option for cargo capacity, as well.) The Nissan's seat-delete package eliminates the rear heater duct and rear roof-mounted assist grips, while adding a flat rear load floor with tie-downs and a cab-wall panel with removable circular hooks.
“It’s easy to stow things in the back because you don’t have to jostle around a B-pillar,” Miller explained. The 2017 Titan King Cab goes on sale this spring. It will be offered in 4x4 and 4x2 drive configurations with a standard 5.6-L gasoline V8 and 7-speed automatic transmission.
The Titan XD King Cab is offered with that same powertrain or a Cummins 5.0-L V8 turbodiesel (see http://articles.sae.org/13829/) mated to a 6-speed Aisin automatic.