Nissan Australia’s partnership with Melbourne engineering firm Premcar to create beefed-up Navara derivatives badged ‘Warrior’ has attracted highly positive attention from senior company figures overseeing other regions, says the company’s local managing director Stephen Lester.
And expanding the program to include an Australian-developed and engineered Patrol Warrior SUV remains on the cards, although slowdowns during the COVID-19 crisis have put a bit of a drag on proceedings.
To catch you up, Nissan’s local arm last year addressed dealer and buyer demand for a more off-road-ready Navara by turning to famed Ford tuner Premcar, which does re-engineering on factory models locally. This was signed off in lieu of a suitable derivative coming from the Thai plant.
“Warrior no question has been a resounding success for us,” Lester told us this week. “Now, COVID hasn’t diminished that, other than to say that the volume across the board will naturally come down with the April results, which won’t seem as robust as we’d normally like.
“Our enthusiasm for carrying Warrior through to other nameplates is still there, certainly with the Premcar team we have a winning relationship and they delivered a great product… and we have worked on Patrol.
“That’s, I would say, paused at the moment simply because of the current operation of both our businesses, we lack the horsepower at the moment. But we will get that back to normal, and I am quite confident that the pull through on Patrol will be an opportunity for the future.”
The obvious follow-up question is, when will we see the V8-powered Patrol Warrior to rival Toyota’s 200 Series LandCruiser – which is due for an update, although exactly when remains to be seen.
“In fairness it’s a joint effort and while we need to make sure the product works for both sides, that the business case comes together appropriately, I’m confident they remain as enthusiastic as we are,” Lester said.
In other words, we have to wait for that.
Taking the course as an OEM to outsource engineering for more rugged and capable derivatives of your factory 4×4, to be sold through official dealers, is not particularly common in the industry. We asked if the Navara Warrior had therefore attracted attention higher up the Nissan regional management chain.
“No question about that, I’ll selfishly tell you that I don’t miss an opportunity to share the great artwork we’ve got or the details of the product and how it came to life, and these products don’t happen in isolation,” Lester answered.
“The ability to bring a modified product such as this to the market doesn’t just happen within the market. Nissan as a company globally invests far too much in the brand to just let something ad hoc get pushed through without proper and necessary engineering and testing follow-through to make sure it is worthy of the Nissan badge.
“So it is very well known, it gets a lot of input and questions from my colleagues around the world, and it’s really a testament to the strength of the team here in Australia, what they’ve been able to bring to life.”
It would be hard to make a case for price-suitable exports, but could a similar template apply elsewhere, we wonder?
Premcar expanded its operations and opened a 6300 square-metre facility in Epping with a production line dedicated to the manufacture of the N-Trek Warrior. This is supported by 40 new staff who, in some cases, re-entered the automotive industry following the closure of Ford, Holden and Toyota plants.
The N-Trek Warrior ($62,990 drive-away at base) is designed to tackle the also Australian-engineered Toyota HiLux Rugged X and the recently-deceased HSV Colorado Sportscat. It’s not quite the full package that a Ford Ranger Raptor is. It comes with Nissan’s regular five-year warranty.
It sits 40mm higher from the ground than the stock Navara N-Trek due to new 4×4 springs and dampers and 32.2-inch Cooper Discoverer AT3 All-Terrain tyres. It alo sports an LED light bar, steel bullbar, underbody protection updates, and various styling changes like stickers and new cloth trim.
Re-engineering was conducted at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC), on the tracks between Ouyen in Victoria and Pinnaroo on the South Australian border, and at Melbourne University’s Advanced Centre for Automotive Research and Testing (ACART) facility.
The seemingly inevitable Patrol Warrior can be expected to get similar treatment, which will no doubt greatly benefit the nameplate that has lost some of its rugged cred of late.