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GT-R fever in Japan thwarts Aussie release

Winning feeling: Nissan's brilliant new GT-R supercar is sold out in Japan until well into 2008.

Grey importers could cash in on delays of Nissan's all-new GT-R supercar

4 Dec 2007

THE WORLD'S newest supercar officially goes on sale on Thursday (December 6) in Japan, but the odds of Australians seeing official right-hand drive versions any sooner than 2009 have lengthened by news it is already a sell-out success in its home country.

With maximum production pegged at 1000 examples per month and, at last count, 2900 orders already received in Japan, Nissan's new-generation GT-R super-coupe is sold out until next March.

Corporate vice-president for global communications Simon Sproule says Nissan is "doing the best we can to bring forward production for many markets, including Australia" and is philosophical about the fact privately imported models will hit our roads up to 12 months before Nissan Australia makes them available.

"Australia and the UK are screaming for right-hand drive supply," he said at the car's global launch at Sendai in Japan this week. "Grey importers will make cash off it – we don't like it but there's nothing we can do about it. It's nice to have the demand." A Donut King-sponsored Japanese-spec GT-R has already been confirmed as a starter for the next Targa Tasmania tarmac rally, to be held in April, but Nissan Australia maintains that "grey-import" GT-Rs will not be registerable in Australia because it intends to import the model.

At this stage Australia is not scheduled to take first official deliveries of the new GT-R until early 2009, when Nissan's most potent model ever also hits Europe and the UK, but local Nissan executives are still hopeful of fast-tracking their allocation.

The GT-R hits the US, which is expected to be the second biggest-selling GT-R nation behind Japan and where it will be priced from $US69,950, in June. Orders open on January 1 and, as in Japan, three variants should be available.

The basic GT-R comes with Dunlop SP Sport 600 rubber on silver alloy wheels and a black leather interior, and costs Y7,770,000 in Japan. The Y8,347,500 "GT-R Premium edition" adds the likes of side airbags, cream-coloured leather and a premium sound system, and gets dark alloys with Bridgestone Potenza RE070R tyres, as does the "GT-R Black edition". It adds black headlining and red leather interior highlights and costs Y7,927,500. Local taxes add about Y1 million in Japan.

The Australian line-up is yet to be decided, as are exterior paint colour choices, which in Japan include White Pearl, Super Black, Vibrant Red, Dark Metal Gray, Titanium Gray and the hero colour, Ultimate Metal Silver, a specially developed finish that comprises two clear top coats.

Nissan is examining sending a number of US-spec versions to the Middle East earlier than its scheduled 2009 ETA, following the massive demand it has experienced there. It's believed individual orders have been placed for as many as 26 and even 40 vehicles by private customers.

"Everyone's a VIP in the Middle East, so we'll do our best to meet demand," said Mr Sproule, who nevertheless confirmed it was possible to increase production by adding a third shift at both the Nissan's Tochigi plant in Tokyo, where the domestic-market Skyline sedan and coupe (which was launched in October) are also assembled.

GT-R engines are individually hand-built by specially trained craftsman, or "takumis", in a purpose-built, temperature-controlled "clean room" at Nissan's oldest (circa 1933) plant, Yokohama, where the VR/VQ-series V6 and MR-series four-cylinder engines are also built. Every one of the GT-R's engines, which feature plasma-coated cylinders and are claimed to have half the tolerances of Nissan's mass-production engines, are bench-tested for up to 40 minutes each to ensure they produce full power and torque, including half an hour of warm-up (30 seconds for each progressive throttle opening) followed by 10 minutes at 6400rpm (where peak power is produced). The VR38DETT V6 weighs a relatively heavy 246kg and Nissan says less than one per cent have required "reworking" so far.

12 center imageIn line with its position as Nissan's most expensive model ever, Nissan plans to ensure the GT-R also remains its most exclusive model by limiting production despite the strong demand.

"You've got to be careful. With a car like GT-R you need to build one less than you can sell," said Mr Sproule, taking a leaf out of Porsche's tried-and-proven marketing book. "GT-R is not just one model. We're managing a six-year model life here or more, so we need to be mindful of residual values.

"We'll get the initial high demand, as with all sports cars. But we have to sell it over the lifecycle. It's tempting to ramp-up production, but we're investing in the future. The GT-R has a long life ahead of it. As we've said, there's aV-spec version coming and we intend to keep it fresh.

"It's good to have the demand but oversupply would not be good for the (GT-R) brand. We're going up against some fairly high-profile brands, so we need to resist rushing in to get rich quick," he said.

"Supreme after-sales service" will also be part of the GT-R ownership experience in Japan, where the model will be sold and serviced (using specific equipment, parts and lubricants, including newly developed 0W40-weight Mobil 1 engine oil) only at dedicated Nissan High Performance Centers (NHPCs) to guarantee a higher level of customer satisfaction. A free three-year service plan will be part of the deal, including 12-month service intervals.

Nissan Australia has not announced its GT-R retail plan, but Mr Sproule said it's unlikely the GT-R will grace all Nissan dealer showrooms.

"Every Nissan dealer wants to have one, but the reality is large metro dealers will probably be the only ones that will. You're unlikely to find GT-R dealers in smaller centres – certainly in Australia it will be metro-only. The ones in the bigger cities will have the bigger investment required to offer the right customer experience inlcuding drive days and the like.

"The performance centres are a reflection of the investment. We're going to bring first-time Nissan customers in. We will be pulling them out of cars like the 911 and we want to retain them in the long-term. A $US70,000 car buyer expects a certain level of service," he said.

Nissan-Renault chief Carlos Ghosn has decreed there will be no advertsing for the GT-R. Instead, video games and strategic product placement will be part of the flagship model's marketing spend.

The GT-R made its global virtual debut in EA Sports' latest Need For Speed game launched on November 14 and will also make an appearance in Sony's next GranTurismo game, while Mr Sproule said Nissan is in discussions for the GT-R to appear in at least one movie, but no deal has yet been done.

Motorsport will also be an integral part of Nissan's GT-R sales pitch. The GT-R will make its race debut in the GT500 category of Japan's production-based Super GT series, for which shakedown testing has already begun.

But the bigegst news is Nissan appears likely to announce an FIA GT series bid by 2010, when the European-based production-based racing series launches its World Championship.

Even bigger news is that Australia is high on the list of targets for a new race as part of the series which currently sees circa-480kW Aston Martins compete with the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Corvette and Porsche at racetracks like Le Mans and Spa, and which has recently expanded into Asia, the Middle East and South America.

"Le Mans is interesting," says Mr Sproule. "There's the production-based GT1 category and then there's the full-on racecar category. By 2010 Asian, European and US (GT1) race regulations will also be similar, so we have lots of options and we're indiscussion with promoters and the FIA. No decision has been made yet, but watch this space."

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