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Exclusive: Nissan working on excitement factor

Super power: Nissan’s latest foray into the V8 Supercar championship has netted positive results for the company’s brand perception.

V8 Supercars having an impact on Nissan brand and Nismo is on the way

19 Apr 2016

NISSAN Australia is working on injecting more buzz and excitement into its brand, something the company’s CEO and managing director Richard Emery admits it has been lacking in recent years.

Notwithstanding the GT-R and 370Z in its range, Mr Emery said there was a disconnect between its high-performance sportscars and the core Nissan brand, which is struggling in terms of passenger car sales and has not had a sub-$50,000 sportscar since the 200SX disappeared more than a decade ago.

This will be addressed to some extent with the forthcoming Nismo performance sub-brand that will push some of its mainstream model lines – not just the GT-R and Z-car – to new heights, while its involvement in Australian V8 racing, although still to be confirmed beyond this season, is seen as a positive move for the Japanese brand – despite the Altima failing to fire on the sales charts.

Nissan is also planning a campaign around GT-R and 370Z, highlighting the company’s technical achievements and bringing the performance icons back into the fold, in a sense, rather than allowing them to sit as standalone nameplates.

“I said when I first got here the brand had become vanilla,” he told GoAuto in an exclusive interview. “We have been working on creating some personality.

“Yes, you can do that through physical cars, but if they are not available in the short term, you have got to take an attitude around the business that we want it to be seen as having a bit of personality and to add some colour.

“Our involvement in motorsport here in Australia is starting to show in our research that there is a bit more of an emotional connection, that Nissans are exciting to drive.

“Our ‘exciting to drive’ score two years ago was nowhere. But we have seen steady lifts on emotional connectors to the Nissan brand over the last couple of years. Motorsport is part of that.”

Nissan re-entered the V8 Supercar arena with Altima in 2013, marking the first time it had competed in Australian touring car racing since 1993, when rule changes outlawed its dominant all-wheel-drive ‘Godzilla’ Skyline GT-Rs.

Mr Emery said the current racing contract finishes up at the conclusion of the 2016 season, ahead of changes to the V8 Supercar regulations that opens the competition up to more body styles and engines, and added that Nissan was “in the process of deciding what the future plans will be”.

When asked whether Nissan will field cars in 2017 and, if so, would they stick with the Altima, Mr Emery said: “The Gen2 (Supercar) rules does give some flexibility. My gut feeling at the moment is that if we were to continue, I am not sure we would move too far away from the package that we have got now.”

 center imageLeft: Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery.Nissan announced late last year that Nismo would finally be launching here in 2016, although Mr Emery now concedes that the performance arm’s relatively small capacity compared with rival performance divisions means it could take some time to roll out.

“We certainly have our intention of launching Nismo in order to add that colour and personality to the brand. The intention is absolutely there and we will do it it is all about the timing about getting access to the vehicles,” he said.

“Nismo is actually a pretty small part of Nissan in terms of its production capacity and everything else. It is not like an AMG or an M. It is quite a small little business and small volume capacity.

“In terms of which countries and when is all dependent on engineering and production capacity. And that is always ebbing and flowing. We haven’t been able to nail it yet. When we nail it we will obviously be able to confirm what we are doing and when we are doing it and which cars but we are not there yet.

But we are going to do it.”

Mr Emery said there was a disconnect with some buyers between the Nissan brand and some of its more popular and iconic models, but added that the company was working to change that.

“The problem with GT-R is it is seen as being detached from Nissan. We need to bring GT-R and (370) Z and the cars that have those emotional connections to the public, and connect them back to the core brand that is Nissan,” he said.

“What I found when I got here was if you ask someone on the street, ‘What do you drive?’ They say, ‘I drive a Patrol’, ‘I drive an X-Trail, ‘I drive a GT-R’. If you ask someone else they say, ‘I drive a Mazda’.

“In the past we have tended to have stronger brand connections with Pulsar or Patrol than the word Nissan. We are trying to turn that around so that people say, ‘I drive a Nissan and it is a GT-R’. Not ‘I drive a GT-R. It happens to be a Nissan’. It sounds subtle but it is a big shift.

“We will be doing more with GT-R and Z, reminding people about our business and what we have achieved. We are 50 years in Australia this year so we will do some stories around that.”

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