Nissan’s Frontier seems to buck the trend for pickup trucks

2018 Nissan Frontier

The Nissan Frontier is the company’s midsize pickup truck offering. Competitors to the Frontier include the Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon, Honda Ridgeline and the upcoming Ford Ranger. It’s also the oldest truck of the group, last seeing a significant refresh back in 2004.

That’s surely bad news for Nissan, correct? Not exactly.

Last month, which was March of 2018, or approximately 14 years after the truck was redesigned, Nissan sold 8,932 Frontiers in the United States. That’s nearly 3 Frontiers for either every Ridgeline sold or for every GMC Canyon sold. That’s good enough for 3rd place in the midsize truck pickup wars.

So how can a truck that’s almost old enough to get a driver’s license in the U.S. sell so well in the U.S.? Let’s take a look.


It’s the price, stupid

Nissan says that the Frontier is the most-affordable pickup truck in America. The starting price for a base model sits at $18,990 before destination and handling. For those who say pickup trucks are getting more and more expensive, they clearly haven’t looked at the Frontier.

Additionally, that’s before you include any incentives offered by the manufacturer or discounts provided by a local dealership. A quick glance at Carjojo for our area shows dozens of trucks in stock with prices below $25,000 even when you start adding on options.

Listing of Frontiers. Photo: Carjojo website

Also, it should be noted that Nissan has surely paid off all the additional costs of developing and retooling a factory for the Frontier. It was probably all paid for before the turn of the decade, so Nissan’s profit margins are bigger now on Frontier than they would be on a freshly-updated Frontier.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Nissan is pocketing the extra money. Extra margin allows the company to be more aggressive with both pricing an incentives, ensuring that the Frontier remains the most affordable truck in the country.

2018 Nissan Frontier

It’s the right size

Trucks are getting larger and larger with each new model. Many half-ton trucks, well what we used to call half-ton trucks, won’t even fit in many garages. The new midsize trucks are the same size of the full-size of just last decade.

If you want a small, capable work truck, or don’t need to have a Mercedes-Benz experience in your truck, the Frontier makes a great alternative. Plus it’ll fit in a garage easily, and parking it in a city is even easier. There’s no need for fancy automatic parking if your truck can just fit into a spot.

2018 Nissan Frontier

Will there be an updated or new Frontier for 2019 or 2020?

Now that is the question. On one hand, I’d argue that a new Frontier is needed. The Frontier is lacking in both equipment (i.e. Android Auto and Apple Car Play) and in some newer safety technology, such as autonomous emergency braking. While not mandated by the government yet, those features are going to become more and more important as we head into another decade.

Frontier Trends
Data Source: and the OEM

If you look at Frontier sales since the beginning of 2017, you’ll see an upward trend of trucks being sold. Even as other models are refreshed, Frontier keeps chugging along.

One could argue that there is no financial reason or motivation to develop a new version of the truck. In fact, if Nissan announces an updated version of the truck, I’d expect to see a run on current Frontiers. The same thing happened when Ford announced they were going to kill the Ranger — sales went up. People will be concerned if the new truck will become bigger and more expensive.

There’ll eventually have to be a new version of the truck. In the meantime, let’s all bask in the glory of the midsize pickup truck that bucks tradition and grows sales despite more modern competition.

Chad Kirchner
the authorChad Kirchner
In addition to Chad Kirchner's work here, he's a freelance automotive journalist for outlets around the world.