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Nissan SUT Concept Vehicle Creates New Interplay

6 January 1999

Nissan SUT Concept Vehicle Creates New Interplay Between Traditional SUV and Pickup Categories

Nissan Sport Utility Truck (SUT). (PR NewsFoto) [AS]
DETROIT, Jan. 5 -- One day after the world debut of its all-new pickup-based sport utility vehicle, the model year 2000 Nissan Xterra, Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A. introduced an entirely new category of personal use vehicle dubbed the Nissan SUT(TM) Concept Vehicle. The key to the new sport utility truck concept is a flip-up liftgate behind the rear passenger seat, which creates an interplay between what the designers call the "clean and dirty zones" -- essentially the front half of an SUV and the rear half featuring a shortened pickup bed.

The bright yellow, two-tone concept vehicle was unveiled at a press conference at the 1999 North American International Auto Show. It was conceived and designed by Nissan Design International, Inc. (NDI) in La Jolla, Calif. and will be displayed at major auto shows in the United States throughout the winter and spring.

"The Sport Utility Truck is a case where one-plus-one can really equal three," said Jerry Hirshberg, president, NDI. "Nissan introduced its first compact pickup to the U.S. market nearly 40 years ago, the first extended cab pickup and other category innovations. Therefore we think it's fitting that we're introducing what could be the next evolution of the personal use pickup."

Nissan Sport Utility Truck (SUT). (PR NewsFoto) [AS]
"The recent trend in both trucks and sport utility vehicles has been to enhance utility by increasing size," said Hirshberg. "The Nissan SUT shows that incredible functionality can be created on a mid-size platform, maintaining driveability, fuel economy and ultimately affordability. Innovation and styling flair comes in all sizes."

The SUT Concept Vehicle is powered by a 170-horsepower 3.3-liter SOHC V6 engine and features 4-wheel drive, 4-speed automatic transmission, a 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System, custom 18-inch wheels and tires and special roof rack and step rails.

Addressing A Need

"The intersection of a truck and SUV addresses an obvious need in the marketplace that you really don't have to explain to people," said Hirshberg. "SUV owners are reluctant to throw dirty stuff in the back of their vehicles and many SUVs just don't have the utility of a real truck. Yet at the same time, our studies show that most truck owners use their pickup beds less than 25 percent of the time -- and when they do, they only use about 20 percent of the bed volume."

The original SUT styling sketches came from the pen of Doug Wilson, chief designer, in NDI's Blue Studio. Wilson had experienced the frustration of trying to carry an oversized plant home from the garden store in his personal sport utility vehicle. Back at the studio, he started doodling the front of the new NDI-designed Xterra SUV with elements of one of NDI's most famous concept vehicles, the futuristic Gobi pickup.

Hirshberg and Tom Semple, NDI director of design, spotted the sketches and soon after the unassigned project became an active design study.

"The timing of Doug's sketches couldn't have been better," explained Hirshberg. "As Nissan is getting smarter from a business aspect about consolidating vehicle platforms, the company has become more creative -- not less -- in thinking of ways to utilize these platforms."

Combining Comfort and Utility

Creation of the actual SUT Concept Vehicle started with a stock 4-door 2000 Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, which shares similar front end styling with the all-new 2000 Nissan Xterra sport utility vehicle. "One of the beauties of the SUT is that it's an extension of current Nissan production vehicles -- Frontier Crew Cab and Xterra," said Hirshberg. "It could be a very short distance between concept vehicle and production vehicle."

The SUT Concept Vehicle retained the fenders, hood, windshield, A-pillars and front doors from the Frontier Crew Cab. The stock roof was cut out and raised about four inches and the rear doors were shaped to provide a more distinctive visual impression of a self-contained compartment. The rear door handles were moved up to the C-pillar for a cleaner profile and the rear windows angled at the lower rear corners.

The transition zone between passenger compartment and pickup bed is accomplished through use of a tapered rear liftgate located directly behind the fold-down rear passenger seat. The liftgate, which measures four feet wide on the lower edge and three feet wide on the top, swings upward on a pair of hinges, with heavy-duty gas struts holding it up when used in the upright position.

With the rear seat folded down and the hatch open, the SUT offers the utility of a full-length compact pickup bed and will accommodate 4x8-foot sheets of plywood or other materials.

The SUT bed measures 42 inches in length. Unique features include twin storage compartments (one on each side) located behind the fenderwells. In addition, a special removable partition rests midway between the fenderwells to compartmentalize the bed, keeping smaller objects from moving around without having to be tied down.

Inside the spacious interior, the SUT utilizes the Frontier Crew Cab instrument panel and front bucket seats.

Wheels and tires used on the concept vehicle are 18-inch alloys mounted with 285/60HR18 tires. Towing capacity is rated at up to 5,000 pounds.

Following the SUT Concept Vehicle's appearance during the public days of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, it will move on to the Chicago Auto Show in February and the New York Auto Show in April.