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Nismo models landing in 2016
Brand-boosting Nismo models to top Nissan range from next year
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19 Nov 2015
IT HAS been a long time coming, but the arrival of Nissan’s range of halo performance cars is finally on the horizon, with the yet-to-be-detailed Nismo line-up due to touch down in Australia next year.
The Japanese car-maker has been vying for the brand-boosting models since 2014 when CEO Richard Emery took the reins, but after a series of “frustrating” delays, the driver-focused variants are now imminent.
Speaking at the launch of Nissan’s Navara one-tonne ute variants, Mr Emery told GoAuto a majority of the key stakeholders had approved the venture, and only a few relatively easy steps stood between the Nismo brand and Australia.
“It is a personal frustration that I haven’t been able to advance Nismo as fast as I would like, but there is certainly now commitment and support from the key people at Nismo for Australia to be a market to launch the passenger-car business into,” he said.
“They were saying 'can you wait a bit longer?' But we don’t want to wait any longer. We need to be on the front foot. I think we will be in a position to certainly have cars on sale during 2016.”
Mr Emery has been optimistic about the potential for Nismo Down Under since he took over the top spot at Nissan Australia almost two years ago, but explained that Nismo’s head office in Japan has been more apprehensive about the local reception.
“They want to expand the Nismo global road car program but they were genuinely concerned about whether they could keep up. Once we do it, can we generate the volumes? We were relatively conservative with our expectations, but they were still worried about biting off more than we can chew.”
Nissan is looking to expand its global presence of the Nismo brand, possibly including the Asia-Pacific region, but Mr Emery said the key people at the company’s Japanese headquarters needed reassurance that the brand would not be a flash in the pan.
Now that the Yokohama HQ is satisfied that Australia can sustain consistent, if not large volume, Mr Emery said the latter stages would come together more simply.
“It is down to production capacity, how many cars they can give us, how often they can give them to us. The rest of it is pretty easy so for us it is about them saying yes we can add another country to the program and how many cars do you need.”
As previously reported, Nissan is not planning Nismo models to be cash-cows for the company, but would instead use the flagship nameplate as a powerful halo for the overall brand, boosting sales of regular Nissans.
“I’m not doing it for the volume, I’m doing it for the brand,” said Mr Emery.
“It’s about adding some excitement to our showrooms. We are seen as a bit of a bland, vanilla brand in the past and we need to beef up our emotional connection.
“The V8 Supercar program and going a bit more aggressive on Z and GT-R has started to introduce some more excitement into the showroom and Nismo would finish that off.
“It’s not about selling lots of Nismos, it’s about people coming in saying I want to have a look at one of those and they drive out with a normal one.”
Exactly which models will be offered in Australia is yet to be finalised, but Mr Emery said only full-blown performance variants would be initially considered, and “wing and wheels” aesthetic packs would not best represent Nismo.
Instead, N-Sport offerings such as the more exclusive X-Trail N-Trek, which is currently offered as a special edition may fulfil the demand for Nismo accessories without damaging the prestige of the brand.
“Nismo has to get established first and earn its potential as a performance brand,” Mr Emery said. “I think wing and wheels isn’t what the brand needs, so we created some sub-brands. N-Sport was introduced this year on X-Trail and that’s where I see using some Nismo componentry, sticking them on a car but not pretending it’s a Nismo. I think that’s fake.
“Putting on some Nismo wheels, a gear knob and a spoiler, and calling it an N-Sport, I’m happy to do that, but I think sticking a Nismo badge on if there is no inherent improvement in either handling or performance is not what the brand needs in the first phase.”
Nissan has already ruled out the tuned-up version of the Note compact hatchback for the Australian market, but hottest versions of the 370Z and mighty Nissan GT-R are more likely in local showrooms.
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