“It is under preparation and development. [The project is] 50/50 until some milestone to decide ‘go!'”, however he suggested that by ‘go’ he meant that the car would be further assessed in terms of the profits required, the investment needed and securing the manufacturing sight.
“That’s a funny story around iDX. Andy [Palmer] said it’s under way, and Pierre Liong, head of product planning in Nissan North America said it’s not so feasible. But Pierre Liong is under me, and Andy is my boss.”
However, Kato confirmed the biggest issue surrounding the car was the platform it would use. He said it must be front-engine, rear-wheel drive (FR), but stated that it would be using the current standalone rear-drive platform used in the 370Z.
“If it’s FF (front-engine, front-wheel drive), we don’t have to do,” he said.”FR is a must. Less quicker, and heavier, and costly. But customers who love the FR pay more. An FF quick vehicle would be really serious, like a Civic Type-R. That’s normal.
“I’m very passionate about the iDX. [Like on a motorcycle] you have narrow tyres, you can go into a corner without braking,” Kato said.
But despite knowing the buyers will be willing to pay more for a rear-drive coupe, Kato said the model cannot afford to be too expensive.
“Only I can say – it must be affordable. Must be affordable. Simplify, simplify,” he said. “That’s exactly the key for the solution. Because I think [Toyota] 86 prices are already expensive. Not crazy expensive, but expensive enough to reject young people to access.
Kato stated that while Toyota had a strong position for the 86 in some markets – such as Australia, where it starts at $29,990 – the pricing of the 86 in Japan (estimated at about $27,500) relative to what else is sold in that market has made the company rethink how it will position any production model that eventuates.
“In Japan [the 86 has sold] nothing. Zero presence,” he said. “For us, original AE86 and that 86 is a totally different concept. So, AE86 was truly affordable. Truly, truly. And current 86 prices are already in Z price range, so not for normal people.
“I’d like to set a slightly lower price position, and I need to share, or need to utilise existing something,” he said.
Kato suggested what will power any production affordable sports coupe was still not confirmed, but made a forthright suggestion about what he thought should be under the bonnet.
“Naturally aspirated power is linear, but the current turbo is also very linear,” he said of the 1.6-litre turbo unit seen in the Nissan Juke and Pulsar models. “So for me, it’s not a big issue, turbo or naturally aspirated.”
“The only issue with the turbo is the exhaust sound. Within legal requirements, there is no issue. But if we put a nice exhaust, turbo is a problem.”
When asked what a production iDX would mean for the 370Z model and any future generation versions of that car, Kato offered a coy response.
“I think the current Z is too expensive. There’s no question about that,” he said.