After many, many years of lying in neglect, the compact pickup truck segment in America is on the verge of something of a renaissance in 2021. Hyundai's Santa Cruz aims to introduce buyers who may have grown tired of using SUVs for their active outdoor lifestyles to the virtues of pickup life without sacrificing the easy-driving characteristics of a crossover; Ford's Maverick is coming under the assumption that the people who once wanted compact cars would rather have four doors and a bed than, say, a Focus. The strategies differ, but the result is the same: a new array of small pickups on U.S. roads.
Nissan, it seems, is well aware of the building momentum behind the compact pickup category. According to a new report, the brand is looking into tossing its hat into the small truck ring — but it might be thinking about doing so in a uniquely future-facing way.
According to a report from trusted industry publication Automotive News, Nissan is in the midst of exploring adding a truck smaller than the midsize Frontier pickup — which is, at long last, new for 2022 — to the lineup. At the same time, the brand is pushing hard to electrify its future products; Nissan has claimed that all new vehicles in its most important markets will be doing so by early next decade. Given the industry trends, it seems as though that new pickup might have no choice but to be electric — at least, if Nissan wants it to have legs.
A compact electric pickup certainly isn't a crazy idea – at least, not in the way it might have seemed just two years ago, before Ford announced the F-150 Lightning, GM announced the GMC Hummer EV and all three of the Big Three declared plans to blast forth with fusillades of EV trucks and SUVs in the next few years. But with the American truck-makers concentrating primarily on the super-profitable full-size pickup market, it certainly leaves space for another carmaker to aim smaller — and Nissan, with its long history of building smaller trucks (they've been selling them here since 1985), would be ideally placed to take advantage.
In addition, while it may not be leading the charge (pun intended) into EVs the way it was a decade ago when the first Leaf launched, Nissan still remains one of the largest purveyors of electric vehicles in the U.S. As of the car's 10th anniversary in December of last year, nearly 150,000 Leafs had been sold in America — a far cry from Tesla's number, sure, but by any other standards, damn impressive. All those sales also mean Nissan has ample experience not just servicing EVs, but explaining to customers the appeal and advantages of them — something that'd be important when convincing buyers to consider a whole new type of pickup.
For now, of course, it's all hypothetical. But we wouldn't be surprised to see a small, affordable electric pickup truck in Nissan dealerships in a couple years.