Nissan said to be in talks with U.S. startup to electrify pickup

Nissan said to be in talks with U.S. startup to electrify pickup
Nissan is looking to breathe new life into its wheezing full-size pickup truck by electrifying it with the help of a Detroit-based startup, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Japanese automaker is considering buying a battery-electric powertrain from Hercules Electric Vehicles for its Titan pickup and sharing parts for the startup’s own truck in a prospective strategic partnership, said the people, who declined to be named.

The talks are ongoing and could still fall apart before a deal is signed, the people said. The two planned vehicles will join a crowded field of new electric trucks chasing an as-yet untested market for battery-powered haulers.

In addition to pickups from rival startups such as Rivian Automotive, more established automakers also are also rolling out all-electric trucks, including General Motors’ GMC Hummer and another unnamed pickup; as well as an electrified version of Ford’s F-150. EV market leader Tesla plans to launch its Cybertruck late next year.

Nissan has been struggling to steady itself since the November 2018 arrest of its former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, and already sluggish sales in the U.S. have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The brand has never fared well in the competitive U.S. full-size truck market, and demand for the Titan plunged 38 per cent last year.

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Going electric may provide Nissan with a way to reposition Titan as a more environmentally friendly truck that can go bumper-to-bumper with battery-powered pickups from rivals.

A partnership between Nissan and Hercules would mirror similar deals forged by Ford and GM with EV startups. Ford plowed US$500 million into Rivian last year for access to its truck-sized electric “skateboard” platform. GM has a tentative deal for a US$2-billion stake in Nikola Corp., though that partnership may be on the rocks after Nikola’s founder stepped down amid regulatory probes .

Hercules was founded in Detroit in 2018 by James Breyer, an auto engineer with stints at GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and Magna International Inc. The company plans to produce its first vehicle, a luxury electric truck called the Hercules Alpha, at niche volumes starting in mid-2022.
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