Nissan to build next-gen Navara in SA: Could more bakkies be built locally?

Image: Wheels24
Image: Wheels24

Earlier in April, it was announced that Nissan will be investing R3-billion at its factory in Rosslyn, Pretoria, where, amongst others, its next-generation Navara will be built.

The announcement, attended by South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was lauded for the 1200 new jobs it will create and for how it will contribute to the South African economy.

Annually, the Rosslyn factory currently produces 35 000 new NP200 and Hardbody/NP300 bakkies, and the arrival of the Navara could add an additional 35 000 units every year - depending on market conditions.

READ: Next-generation Nissan Navara to be built in South Africa

But while this is all great news, the Navara forms the basis for two other bakkies - the Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class; the latter sold in South Africa. It is thought that when production starts on the next-generation Navara sometime in 2020, the X-Class and Alaskan, which could go on sale locally in 2021, could very well be produced alongside it.

And just in case you didn't know, the all-new Mitsubishi Triton, set for launch in 2021, will also share the next-gen Navara's architecture.

Nissan Navara

When the first-generation Navara came to South Africa at the end of the millennium’s first decade, it made waves due to its leisure-orientated nature. The second-generation, launched in 2017, took things a step further by adding a five-link coil suspension at the rear, aimed at gifting the bakkie with an SUV-like ride quality.

The jury is still out on whether it really does aid driving characteristics over standard leaf suspension but it can’t be discounted that Nissan took a big gamble and adhered to buying trends. The Navara now is a fully-fledged leisure bakkie and find hundreds of buyers each month. It’s also a regular top ten contender in Naamsa's monthly best-selling bakkies list.

For this model Nissan opted to discontinue the turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and instead only brought a 2.3-litre diesel engine, developing 140kW and 450Nm. The range currently comprises seven models.

                                           Image: MotorPress

Mitsubishi Triton

Mitsubishi launched a facelifted version of its Triton bakkie in South Africa early in April but the bakkie though curiously its design makes its new like an entirely new vehicle rather than just a update. The Triton has one of the best ride qualities of available bakkies in SA and it achieves that with a standard leaf suspension at the rear. For the facelift, Mitsubishi enhanced the rear suspension to gift the bakkie with a softer ride quality.

READ: Mitsubishi’s next-gen bakkie - Tougher Triton arrives in SA

It definitely worked and Mitsubishi's proves that you do not need a suspension such as the Navara’s to achieve good ride quality. Plans to share the Navara’s architecture could mean that the next-generation Triton will also be fitted with SUV-like suspension. It is not yet known what details regarding the platform-sharing agreement are but from 2021 the Triton could 1) only share architecture with the Navara or 2) share its architecture and drivetrain options.

Currently there are only four models in the revised Triton range, comprising 4x2 and 4x4 models available in both manual and automatic. The 2.4-litre turbo diesel engine is good for 133kW and 430Nm.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

When Mercedes-Benz first revealed images of its X-Class (in concept form) a few years ago, not many people believed that the German manufacturer would actually follow through and build a bakkie. Bakkie dreams were made reality and in mid-2018 the bakkie was launched in South Africa.

Why did Mercedes create a bakkie? Well, it’s simple. Globally the bakkie market is booming and we only have to look at our local market to see that Mercedes is onto something, since the Toyota Hilux is the best-selling vehicle in South Africa. And since Mercedes-Benz is in alliance with Renault and Renault with Nissan, it was easy for the German automaker to tap into the resources Nissan has and use the Navara, a true leisure bakkie, as basis for its X-Class.

The X-Class does have its own design and interior, but shares the Navara’s entire drivetrain and chassis. Mercedes-Benz did add its own 190kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine to the range last year; the top model selling for R973 188. It remains to be seen to what extent the next X-Class distances itself from the Navara; if at all.

READ: Mercedes-Benz X350d 4Matic Power driven

                                           Image: Wheels24 / Sean Parker

Renault Alaskan

The Alaskan was due to hit our shores in 2018 and though that never materialised, Renault South Africa managed to finally receive the green light from its HQ in France to bring the bakkie here in 2021. Like the X-Class, the Alaskan shares its underpinnings with the Navara but has its own design and interior layout. Like many manufacturers do, Renault scouted the market for where the next potential pot of gold will be and used Nissan’s resources to produce the Alaskan.

READ: French bakkie invasion in 2018 - Renault Oroch & Alaskan for SA

Though the Alaskan we’ll be getting in 2021 is the facelift, it should undoubtedly add to the character of the South African bakkie market. Given that the Alaskan will be competing against the Navara and X-Class, as well as Triton, Hilux, and Ford Ranger, Renault would have to price its new bakkie aggressively, especially because the other three bakkies in this list are already familiar to consumers.

Like the X-Class, the Alaskan is currently sold in global markets with the Navara's 2.3-litre diesel engine, available in two states of tune: 140kW/450Nm and 120kW/403Nm.

                                           Image: QuickPic

Charlen Raymond is the editor of Manskap.

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