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Nissan’s next Nismo model expected to be 370Z

Juked out: Despite a crossover-heavy market, Nissan has revealed the Nismo-tuned Juke will likely not arrive to Australian showrooms in its current guise.

Tuned current-gen Juke and Patrol Nismo ruled out by for Oz, 370Z likely to be next

Nissan logo10 Feb 2017

By TUNG NGUYEN

NISSAN Australia may have just launched its Nismo brand with the arrival of the GT-R flagship, but the Japanese car-maker already has its sights on the next tuned model, heavily foreshadowed to be the ageing 370Z two-seater sports coupe.

Speaking with GoAuto at the GT-R Nismo launch this week, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery indicated the rear-drive 370Z is a more likely contender than the Juke crossover or Patrol off-roader as the second Nismo model to launch in this country.

“Z is a bit more likely,” he said. “It is an iconic product that is well loved in Australia by its customer base, people know Z.”

The 370Z launched in 2009 as a successor to the popular 350Z from the early but despite its ageing platform, powertrain and technology, Mr Emery believed there was still a sales opportunity for the sportscar, especially with a Nismo-tuned version.

“It is still a very good car, yes it is old, but for what it is as a driver’s vehicle, it is still a very good car,” he said. “I think it is actually undervalued as to how good that car is.

“Yes, the nav system is old, yes I accept all of that, but I drove Nismo Z about a year ago… and it is a nice car, Nismo did a really nice job on it.

“Because we still do quite well on Z, that is certainly an opportunity.”

Overseas markets have had access to a 370Z Nimso for the last eight years, with Nissan tuners upping engine output from the standard car’s 245kW of power and 363Nm of torque to 260kW and 374Nm, as well as stiffening suspension and stabiliser bars for improved handling.

370Z Nismos are easily identified by their sports bodykit, larger forged aluminium Rays 19-inch wheels and beefier sports brakes.

While rumours have swirled for years that Nissan would tap into the performance SUV market with a hotted-up Juke crossover, Mr Emery revealed that local release of the Nismo-tuned small SUV would not make sense.

“Juke Nismo has some issues for us on ADRs (Australian Design Rules) and Euro 5 fuel, so there are a few issues around its suitability for Australia,” he said.

“So no, it’s certainly not imminent, there is a lot of work to be done with Juke.”

Mr Emery also said bringing the Nismo-tuned version – which differs from the regular Juke with a sports bodykit, suspension and steering tweaks, interior changes and a bump in engine power to 147kW/249Nm – could make it an “orphan” once the next-generation crossover lands.

“There is a new Juke due in, I think two years, so then do you launch it only to be superseded quite soon?” he said. “There is a lot of product planning work going on in the background.

"If we were to make it available, Juke, if it only had 18 months life, and then the new one arrived but it didn’t have a Nismo version, then the car kind of becomes an orphan.

“Although it might make sense for everybody to say ‘oh just launch Juke’, it mightn’t fit in in the longer term, so there’s lots of those discussions going on.

“And of course if there’s work to be done on the car, that’s investment we have to get a return on, and we might look at the price and say well everybody’s going to laugh at us if we don’t get it right.

“So all of those things are in consideration, but Juke is difficult.”

Honda Australia faced a similar problem with the latest Civic Type R hot hatch in late 2015, where the brand decided not to launch the high-performing variant with the imminent arrival of the 10th-generation model in the first half of 2016.

Mr Emery also ruled out the possibility of the upper-large Patrol Nismo SUV making a local showroom debut due to supply constraints and its market-particular specification.

“Patrol is very a specific vehicle for the Middle East,” he said, adding that there was a question over the availability of Nismo variants in right-hand drive.

“Patrol globally is beyond capacity, we’re restricted with Patrol and the Infiniti version, we’re restricted on supply of those let alone Nismo versions so right now, the chances of me getting allocation supply of Patrol is virtually nil.”

Aside from the Juke, Patrol, 370Z and GT-R, Nismo also offer a tuned version of the Nissan March (known as Micra in Australia) and Note tallboy hatch in international markets.

But Nissan Australia discontinued the slow-selling Micra last year, ruling out the likelihood of a Nismo debut, and does not offer the Note hatch locally.

Mr Emery explained that Nismo models would not be offered in showrooms just for the sake of it.

“There are other vehicles available, not all of them suitable for Australia – whether it be engineering or ADRs and things like that – so there are a range of products that are potentially available to us,” he said.

“Nismo will certainly be more than just one model, but for us, it is now about making sure we follow up GT-R Nismo with something that lives by the Nismo kind of authenticity.”

Mr Emery added that Nissan Australia is talking to its Japanese parent company and Nismo about what vehicles are available, but crucially also whether they are available in sufficient volumes.

“They can’t just ramp up overnight to sell volumes to the whole world or all the markets that desperately want it,” he said.

Mr Emery also divulged an opportunity to bring not only whole Nismo cars to market, but also accessories and parts – both aesthetic and performance – if it would not damage the brand.

“Once we get GT-R Nismo launched we will look at what other opportunities exist, but I do want to look after the brand to be honest,” he said. “I don’t really want lots of cars running around as ‘fake’ Nismos.

“Having said that, if we offer the core product, having accessories available for that product, or from that product is ok.

“Particularly in the first two or three years, to make sure that the brand is established and is founded on genuine credentials, we’ll watch that carefully.”

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