Check this out MIkeup."They want me to test a what?"
"This is a joke, right?"
"Don't they know who I am?"
"And they want me to do it anyway?"
"They must be out of their collective corporate minds."
I hung up the phone, laughing.
My wife walked in and asked why I was laughing. The identical conversation took place.
"They want you to test a what?"
"Don't they know who you are?"
Nissan Corporate had a lot of guts asking me to off-road test their new 2006 Titan. I mean, I'm the archetypical American truck guy. Everything I do revolves around trucks. From hauling heavy loads to hauling butt in the desert I use trucks.
But I use American trucks. Exclusively.
Nissan's logic was explained to me like this: We'll have Kroeker test the truck and write about it. If it's positive, that's great; if it's negative, we'll use the feedback to improve the vehicle. This was a bold move, considering the fact that my slant concerning their product was more than a little negative - especially since the truck they wanted me to test had beaten my race truck by only minutes in the 2004 Baja 1000. And almost two years later, I'm still bitter about it.
A few years ago, I tried a "full-sized" non-Nissan Japanese truck. It was a good, reliable truck but it always struck me as "dinky" and unsubstantial. It just wasn't up to the tasks I would give it - and I wasn't asking much either. I would load a couple of dirt bikes in the bed for a day at the track, cinch them down tight and the front tires would bend the bed's sheet metal into the cab. I would load a trailer with race bikes and a couple of drums of race fuel, and on the drive to Baja the little, Japanese motor would huff and puff and wheeze up every hill, then on the way down, the brakes would burn up. Sure the truck was easy to park and road nicely on the highway, but every time I needed it to work, it wimped-out on me.
If I was going to spend my hard-earned money on a truck, it better do what I tell it to and not complain. Four trips to the dealer for new brakes, a blown transmission and the service manager telling me, "they all do that," when I showed him my bent bed soured my disposition and distorted my perspective.
I had had enough.
So I sold that truck for small change and became a card-carrying, full-blooded, dyed-in-the-wool, red-white-and-blue, you-can-have-my-American-truck-when-you-pry-my-cold-dead-fingers-from-around-the-steering-wheel, truck owner - an Ugly American truck owner who would yell at friends about their wimpy Japanese horsepower, brake swept-area, and towing capacity like an American tourist in Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirt and cowboy hat yelling at a foreign waiter in English. I had become a Truck Bigot.
So when it came time to off-road test the new 2006 Nissan Titan, my objectivity was questionable to say the least. But as a professional I knew I had to do two simple things.
1. Gather data
2. Evaluate the data
I didn't trust my own perspective, since the glass was already way more than half empty, so I enlisted a couple of experienced off-roader buddies to help with task number one.
Upon arrival I asked them what they thought about the way the truck looked. One said the modern styling was "overdone" probably to make the truck more easily identifiable. The other said, "it sucks." A little prodding revealed that there were no "reasons" why the styling "sucked."
"What don't you like about it?" I asked.
"I don't know. It looks like a Japanese truck…" was the answer.
I wanted data, like, "the belt line is too low," or "the wheel wells are too large." But I wasn't getting anywhere. At the time I didn't say anything, but personally, I like the look of the truck. It doesn't have the superfluous, non-utilitarian look of the older Nissan trucks. The window to body relationship is well-balanced and the low, short hood line is modern and smart. It looks tough and functional -like it means business, even while it's just sitting there static.
"How do you think it's going to perform?" I asked.
One said, "Like a crappy Japanese truck."
The other said, "I think it's going to suck."
Asking, "why" gathered no intelligent response.
I was beginning to think the Truck Bigot had made the mistake of hiring the Truck Gestapo.