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Nissan looks at V8 Supercar options

Fast and furious: While the Nismo performance sub-brand is still not locked in for Australia, Nissan’s local boss is keen to inject some excitement into the brand.

Altima could be dropped from racing come 2017, but Nismo decision not locked in

Nissan logo14 Apr 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

NISSAN will continue to have a presence in Australian motorsport in the future, according to its local boss, but the Altima could be replaced on the V8 Supercar grid with another model when changes to the regulations kick in from 2017.

The new ‘Gen 2’ Supercar rules will allow the inclusion of non-V8-powered engines and more diverse body configurations, such as coupes, in a bid to appeal to a wider audience of punters and manufacturers, particularly given Holden and Ford’s withdrawal from local production by 2017.

The Japanese car-maker launched two Nissan Motorsport teams of two cars each in the 2013 V8 Supercar season, using its American-focussed but Thai-built Altima as the basis ahead of its showroom debut later that year.

Speaking exclusively with GoAuto, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery confirmed Nissan’s involvement in its current guise to the end of next year, before making a final decision on its long-term future in the series.

“We are in it until the end of 2016,” he said. “We extended the original contract by a year to the end of 2016. That was to align it with the new regulations that start in 2017.

“We’re going through a process this year that will agree a motorsport strategy with Nismo and Japan and our internal team here, hopefully by mid-year roughly and make a determination on what our motorsport will be in 2017 onwards.” Mr Emery said the more flexible Supercar regulations open Nissan up to a number of possibilities, with the company expected to confirm its intentions later this year.

“The Gen 2 rules give us some opportunities, probably more than any other manufacturer. With the change in engine rules and body-shell rules, we do have a number of different options we can take.

“It’s intriguing and interesting, which means we can go back to the drawing board and say ‘what do we want out of V8 Supercars, or motorsport in general in Australia and what could be the vehicle or vessel which we can take advantage of that’. We will do that this year.”

Regardless of the final decision, Mr Emery said Nissan will definitely have a motorsport presence in Australia, but hinted at a V8 Supercar future without the Altima.

“I am confident Nissan will be a major motorsport player in Australia, it is part of what we are. In terms of what that looks like on track, I think with Gen 2 rules in 2017 we need to think about that.

“It’s not 100 per cent that when you turn up at a V8 race in 2017 that there will be a V8-engined Altima on the grid.”

Meanwhile, the long-mooted Australian introduction of the Nismo performance tuning arm is still being considered, along with a number of other strategies, to inject some excitement into the brand Down Under.

“I am very keen to have Nismo as part of that emotional connection,” Mr Emery said. “We became a rational decision-making brand … people were making decisions based on price, rational.

“We have ‘excitement’, ‘innovation’ in our strapline, we don’t do enough in the excitement or innovation space. Yes we have Leaf, yes we have GT-R and they are great, but to some extent they feel like they are their own little iconic things outside the brand.

“We need to drag those messages, along with others, whether it be Nismo or some other things we are looking at doing, to make sure the brand does exude excitement, innovation and some emotion. Because, emotion is where you make money, you don’t make money out of rational decision-making.

“Whether it be holding up residual values for our customers or being able to secure the sort of profit for our network and ourselves in terms of return on investment, we need to put some of that emotional-decision making into the brand, because it did go away.”

In other markets, Nismo variants include performance-honed versions of models such as the GT-R, as well as the Juke and Micra, to name a few.

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