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Australian Nismo range edges closer

Juke nuke: Nissan's cheeky Juke crossover isn't selling as well as it hoped, but a hot 160kW Nismo RS version could boost interest in the range.

Nissan puts brand-boosting Nismo range on the priority list for Australia

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Nissan logo15 Sep 2014

By DANIEL GARDNER

NISSAN says the introduction of a high-performance Nismo range would remind customers of the Japanese brand's racing heritage and help shake off a “boring” reputation, edging an Australian range a step closer.

Ongoing participation in the V8 Supercar series with four Altima racers was the start of a campaign to revive its high-octane history, but Nissan says it “hasn't done enough” with the range of fizzy Nismo vehicles that are available in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the Sandown 500 V8 Supercar event, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto he was pushing the local team to finalise a Nismo lineup for Australia, which would lift public perception of the brand.

“We certainly haven't done enough with Nismo and I'm certain of advancing Nismo for Australia,” he said.

“There's some work to be done – it had been on the profile for Australia but it hadn't been pushed perhaps as hard as we would like.

“So my attitude has been: Come on, where are we up to with this? Let's get Japan on board, let's get cracking, and that's what we are in the process of doing at the moment.” But Mr Emery was keen to point out an Australian Nismo lineup would not be simply a case of “red stripes and alloy wheels”, and any version to come Down Under would have to offer a significant performance boost over standard Nissan variants.

“For me, when we do it, it's about making sure we've got the right products.

It would be a mistake to do it and put a Nismo badge on alloy wheels and a red stripe,” said Mr Emery.

“I’ve got to get the portfolio that has the hero cars and once we can achieve that, it makes good sense.

“There need to be certain criteria before we market it as Nismo – it might be branded globally as Nismo but we might say 'actually, that's not good enough'.” The power-only principle would rule out vehicles like the Nismo Micra and Note for Australia, which have only cosmetic and chassis modifications over the standard Nissan hatchback variants and would “undermine what Nismo stands for”.

The final range has not yet been decided but Mr Emery said all three full-fat Nismo models currently available in other markets were possibilities.

“Certainly GT-R would make sense – we've got a solid GT-R business in Australia and the car is well accepted and (370) Z I think goes without saying,” he said.

“Juke is interesting – a global success for Nissan. It doesn't perform at the level we would like in Australia yet and maybe a Nismo version would add some muster to that brand.” Nismo treatment of the already fiery GT-R pushes power up from 404kW to 447kW with 652Nm of torque, 370Z versions get an extra 15kW with 260kW on tap, while the Juke Nismo RS gains a 20kW boost over the standard ST-S turbo from 140kW to 160kW.

Recent studies have highlighted an undesirable public perception of the Nissan brand, and the company says introduction of Nismo vehicles would raise awareness of the company's proud track record, helping to correct the misconception.

“One of the things that research revealed we perform poorly on is that nobody knows what we really stand for,” he said.

“We've got the strange situation where actually we've got this really strong sporting and motorsport heritage and exciting cars like GT-R, and yet the public's perception of us is that we're boring and a bit vanilla.

“We are actually quite the opposite to that but we are not getting that message across.” Mr Emery likened Nismo products to the equivalent Mercedes-Benz halo range - AMG, saying the introduction of high-performance Nissans could produce similar results.

“The success of AMG in Australia with Mercedes-Benz is world-leading and its changed what Mercedes in Australia stands for, and I think we can achieve very similar results out of Nissan,” he said.

“You will see more of a colourful brand representation over the next year than you've probably seen from us before.” The Nismo name was derived by abbreviating the words Nissan Motorsport, and was established in the mid-1980s when two separate Nissan high-performance development branches merged.

In its 30 year history, Nismo tuned and supported vehicles have competed in a wide range of racing series including the FIA GT championship, Daytona and Le Mans 24-hour events.

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