04-07-2012, 09:57 AM
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Nismo: Nissan's fast plans
Nissan is planning to boost its performance car range with go-fast Nismo cars - and Australia could play a part.
Nissan's go-fast division will embark on a global product-led expansion plan that could even see it leverage its 2013-onwards V8 Supercar program with locally-developed performance cars.
The brand appears certain to arrive in Australia providing a sports-oriented sub-brand in the same vein as AMG is to Mercedes-Benz, HSV is to Holden, FPV is to Ford and M to BMW.
The Nismo brand - the name is a combination of Nissan and motorsport - has so far been largely quarantined to Japan and the enthusiast market, but recently appointed Nismo boss Simon Sproule says it is working on an aggressive model development that should see models start appearing in 2013.
"We see a massive opportunity," says Sproule. "We've got two sports cars, we've got the GT-R, we need to get a bit of that special sauce and apply it to a more accessible range of vehicles."
Sproule says the Nismo range of performance vehicles must live up to expectations from a performance perspective, bringing engine modifications as well as handling tweaks.
"We can offer warm and hot or hot and spicy ... we think the scope for Nismo to start engineering whole vehicles is right," says Sproule.
"We've got to make sure anything we do is credible. It has to have both a different look and a different feel and the feel is ride/handling but it's also engine power as well."
Sproule says the Nismo range - which he thinks won't touch every vehicle but will incorporate a decent spread that could see a much-awaited replacement to cars such as the once popular Nissan Pulsar SSS - will be offered globally and it would be up to Australia whether they wanted it.
But Nissan Australia appears keen, pointing to the Nismo growth plans as an exciting opportunity.
"In Australia we're in alignment with that [developing the Nismo performance brand], we'd like to do that," says Ian Moreillon, Nissan Australia's executive general manager, fleet and sales. "But it has to be the right product at the right time."
If the planets align there could even be some Australian engineering in the global Nismo lineup thanks to the imminent V8 Supercar program that will see the four-car Kelly Racing team rebranded as Nissan Motorsport to campaign four Altima sedans in the 2013 championship.
Kelly Racing CEO John Crennan has vast experience with performance models having helped set up and run the successful HSV operations for its first 20 years.
Crennan says the focus is currently on the race team and ensuring the relationship with Nissan is maximised but that ultimately there may be an opportunity to develop and engineer Nismo cars locally.
"Has there been any discussion on that? No there hasn't," says Crennan. "It would be nice to think it could ultimately lead to some road car activities but I can't imagine that in the short term."
Nismo boss Sproule is also open to the idea.
"I'm keeping a very open mind about partnerships," he says. "If Kelly (Racing) ... have got a proposal for us we'd absolutely entertain it."