- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

DETROIT, Jan. 7 (UPI) — It's big and it's bad.

Nissan Motor Co. Tuesday introduced its first full-size pickup in the U.S. market at the North American International Auto Show in Cobo Center.

The 2004 Nissan Titan has a 300-horsepower, all-aluminum V8 engine capable of towing 9,400 pounds. The half-ton and 3/4-ton Titan models can be configured with bucket seats and a center console shifter or a column shifter with bench seating for three people.

Big Three automakers who own the domestic truck market already are battling competition from the Toyota Tundra — and the Titan is even bigger.

"The new Titan is the Nissan's biggest vehicle and biggest statement yet," said Bill Kirrane, vice president and general manager of Nissan.

Ford later this week rolls out its restyled F-150 pickup, the best-selling light truck in the world, and General Motors has kept sales of Chevrolet and GMC trucks perking with generous incentives. Dodge introduced all-new Ram pickups, including a turbo-hemi powered monster last year.

Nissan hopes to sell about 100,000 of the aggressively styled Titans a year. The production model takes styling cues from Nissan's Alpha T concept vehicle. It has wide-opening rear access doors and the industry's first factory-installed spray-in-bed liner.

The Titan will be built at Nissan's Canton, Miss., plant and share an assembly line with the aerodynamically restyled Quest minivan and a new full-sized sport-utility vehicle.

Mazda announced the return of the rotary-engine sports car with the 2004 RX-8. The base $25,180 RX-8 has a 250-horsepower rotary engine coupled with a four-speed manual transmission. A six-speed manual is $26,680. All Mazdas come with four-year roadside assistance and a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

"The Mazda RX-8 delivers innovative solutions to traditional automotive restrictions such as packaging, design and drive trains," said Charlie Hughes, president and chief executive officer of Mazda North American Operations.

Toyota unveiled a high performance gasoline-electric hybrid power train, called Hybrid Synergy Drive, it plans to introduce in the Lexus RX 330 SUV in about two years.

"The RX with Hybrid Synergy Drive has a V6 engine with the power and torque of a V8 and delivers the fuel mileage of a compact car while producing a fraction of the emissions of standard SUVs," said Toyota President Fujio Cho.

"These major advances in our hybrid system and in the number of vehicles carrying it will help us achieve our worldwide goal to put 300,000 hybrid vehicles on the road annually by the middle of this decade."

Toyota also premiered the FJ Cruiser concept, a new-generation off-road SUV aimed at young buyers with active outdoor lifestyles.


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