Rich Miller is chief product specialist of Nissan Product Planning for Titan and Armada and is a life-long truck enthusiast. Miller has been with Nissan trucks for over 18 years, and he has an inside view of what a customer wants and needs in the truck market segment.
Before joining the Titan full-size truck project in 1999, Miller had worked with Frontier and Xterra. His strategy was to test the capability of Nissan's first full-size truck with drivers who would take that vehicle to its limits. These early Titans were loaned to cowboys on his family ranch in Idaho, oil riggers, log cutters, and tradespeople in tough, physical work. Each group evaluated the truck in real-world driving and work scenarios, all of which played into the robust Titan pickup.
In his current product-planning role, Miller's directive from the company is to make a shift in its full-size pickup strategy, along with broadening its SUV and commercial vehicle lineups. He is calling again on those tradespeople who use full-size trucks for work.
Rick, who lives in the suburbs of Nashville with his wife and three young children, is an accomplished duck and pheasant hunter. Rich's family owns commercial fishing rights outside of his wife's native village in Egegik, Alaska, where he spends weeks each summer harvesting salmon and selling them to the commercial fishery interests.
I recently visited the Cummins engine plant in Indiana to view the production process for the diesel engines for the 2016 Titan. After the visit, I contacted Miller at Nissan's proving grounds in southern Arizona, where he was testing different versions of the Titan. Following, excerpts from the interview:
strong>Holly Reich: I was impressed by Cummins' operations. (The company was founded in 1919 in Columbus, Ind., and is a technology leader in diesel engines. Nearly a century later, this U.S. company has more than 5,000 facilities in 197 countries and territories.) Is that why you chose them to manufacturer the diesel engine?
strong>Rich Miller: The first Titan launched in 2003 was engineered in combination with Japan, but was predominately U.S. manufactured. We've been doing that since the beginning of Titan. The full-sized pickup segment is very much a U.S. vehicle so having a U.S. plant for the engine made sense. We have an enormous amount of diesel engines worldwide, and Cummins produced exactly what we wanted in a diesel engine for the Titan.
HR: You said that Titan is a "viable business proposition for the company." What does that mean?
RM: The way I look at viability is if you can bring a product to the market that the customers are looking for and willing to pay for with their hard-earned dollar. From a business standpoint, the competition feels that they can cover those customers with the half-ton truck or three-quarter-ton truck. We've got that covered. Titan fits in between these two big segments. (Classification is 2B truck). Many of our customers will say it's just right.
HR: In 1999, you started testing the Titan's capability with cowboys on your ranch in Idaho, oil riggers, log cutters, and other working teams. Tell me about that.
RM: In 1999 at Nissan, as we were developing the original half-ton Titan, we started exploring that segment. We loaned the trucks out over a six- to seven-month rotation to a swatch of truck users that included ranchers in Idaho, Canadian oil riggers, workers in Tennessee, New Mexico, and Texas. It's a process unique to Nissan.
h2>HR: Any interesting stories from the people who tested it out?
RM: On the previous-generation truck, I visited the ranch and was talking to a cowboy who had been testing it for about a month. He was hooking up his trailer that didn't have any stopping power to the truck and using it on old roads and mountains. You want the trailer to do most of the braking; in this case, he was relying on the truck. (While that said a lot for Titan's power, I wouldn't advise it!)
strong>HR: You are an avid outdoorsman: What is your favorite "sport"? And I'm interested in hearing about salmon fishing at your wife's camp in Alaska.
RM: I'm a big bird hunter. I started skeet shooting with my dad when I was a kid, and I pursued it professionally in college. After college, I got into bird hunting. Every weekend I'm up to my knees in mud in a rice field hunting duck or quail.
I married into the salmon fishing. My wife's family is Alaskan, and they lived in a small remote village of 50 people. Her mom inherited the fishing rights from her grandmother, and we bought her mother out. In the summer time, the entire family comes back. She has lots of cousins that still live there.
I go up for two and a half weeks in the summer. We have a 300-square-foot cabin, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom/laundry area. We take Alaskan steam baths for bathing. There's a big furnace in a room with river rocks around it. You sit in there and heat up, and then you pour heated buckets of water over yourself. It's the traditional Aleut way.
HR: Did you build your home? Are there any design elements in your home that were inspired by you?
RM: Interestingly enough, we just built our home. My wife is a civil engineer, so she took a couple of known designs and blended them together. My garage has a shop and can hold about five cars. The garage and all of the kitchen appliances were my areas. I have a quad-burner gas stove with a grill on one side and a griddle on the other.
Because Tennessee is not known for Mexican food, I grow green chilies then fire roast, peel, and freeze them. Then I get pork rib meat, heat it in a skillet with salt and put it in a crock-pot along with peeled green chilies and tomatillos for eight hours. It just melts in your mouth.
h2>HR: Last, what's on your bedside table?
RM: When I was a kid, and we would go camping with my dad, he would turn on the radio before we went to bed. So, I listen to podcasts of old radio shows like Dragnet, the Shadows, and other shows from the '40s and '50s. I go to sleep with that every night.
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