It’s no secret that the off-road vehicle market has seen a massive surge in interest and popularity among buyers over the past few years. The Ram TRX, Ford Raptor, and even venerable icons like the Jeep Wrangler and its pickup cousin the Gladiator are encouraging more buyers to explore nature and the beaten paths that lead to them. One notable brand that has been absent from the party so far is Nissan but many dealers are demanding the return of the iconic Xterra nameplate to help them cash in on some of the fruits of this sales surge
An Xterra Trilogy Is Coming?
The model in question is the Xterra off-road SUV which has been missing in action since 2015 when Nissan pulled the plug on 2nd generation Xterra production due to collapsing demand for SUVs. The Xterra’s old school bones also played a role in its most recent demise with the Xterra’s body on frame construction clashing with the modern unibody based designs that made up the rest of Nissan’s utility lineup.
But a key drawback is that many unibody offerings are better at traversing mall parking lots and the trails of suburbia than some of the wild terrain commonly found in Moab or even the Rubicon Trail. We would also not want to see what happens if a unibody offering makes contact with a boulder. This rugged dependability has always been a key strength for body on frame vehicles which can take a severe beating and still bring there occupants safely home after a hard day of trail running.
“The rugged body-on-frame utility segment is on fire, and we’re missing out on key business for the brand,” said Tyler Slade, an operating partner at Tim Dahle Nissan in Salt Lake City, in a recent interview with Automotive News.
For the moment buyers are finding what they need with other brands, Ford for example logged over 190,000 reservations for various flavors of the resurrected Ford Bronco despite the model being the victim of several crucial delays that pushed its launch into the summer. Meanwhile Jeep managed to sell 201,311 Wranglers during the 2020 model year, while Toyota managed to move 129,052 examples of the 4-Runner. That’s a massive amount of sales that Nissan dealers are potentially missing out on and it only makes them much more determined to try and get in on the action while they still can.
Nissan Is Listening, Studying Xterra Comeback
As for Nissan, the brand is indeed listening to its dealer network, but while the Japanese auto giant has subtly hinted that it could bring back the Xterra over the past few years, not much has come of these claims. But Nissan is obviously focusing on more immediate priorities at the moment, with the company in the middle of not only weathering rough seas created by COVID-19 and the aftershocks from the sudden downfall of its former CEO Carlos Ghon, but also revamping its lineup to help it better compete against a steady torrent of more modern competitors.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue and the Armada are the first significant glimpses of this effort, and more is on the way with the company putting the final touches on an all new Frontier pickup which would be the first new mid-size pickup offering from Nissan in over a decade.
Could We See A More Immediate Move By Nissan?
For some dealers though, the wait will be too much for them and some will want a more immediate move by the company. One way that Nissan could satiate this demand temporarily is to bring the Terra SUV to the U.S. The Terra is a body-on frame based model which is sold in China and other global markets. Nissan last ruled out the chances of the Terra making a trip to U.S. shores in 2018 possibly due to the immense costs needed to make it comply with U.S. safety and environmental laws.
The Terra does have a wild focused variant called the X-Terra but unlike the non hyphenated Xterra that was once sold here, this version is more of a family offering that happens to be capable of only light or moderate off-roading. It would seem that Nissan would ultimately have to do what they did back in the mid 1990s and design and develop any potential Xterra revival in the U.S. itself in order for the company to better gauge what American buyers want.
The rewards for such an approach could be worth it in the end though with Slade revealing that a revived Xterra could sell between 70,000 and 80,000 units annually in the U.S. market. That might not seem like much at first glance, but it would certainly be more than enough to be a potent gate crasher for the current crop of off-road focused models on the market today.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.