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by David Zalstein

Despite Nissan Silvia production ending in 2002, the GT-R debuting in 2007, and the 370Z first launching in Japan in 2008, the man in charge of Nissan Asia-Pacific, says the Japanese car maker is still “intensively discussing” its future sports car strategy.

Speaking to selected Australian media in Japan this week – just a day after Fuji Speedway hosted the 19th Nismo FestivalNissan Asia and Oceania head of operations/president of Nissan Asia Pacific (NMAP), Yutaka Sanada, said he understands why enthusiasts are eager for new performance product, but that the brand is being careful to ensure it delivers the right products to meet lofty consumer expectations.

“I think it’s a natural question – you [were] invited to the Nismo Festival [afterall],” the regional senior vice president said.

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“We are intensively discussing [this subject] because I think, we are making the expectation, but in fact, our plan is not yet fully cooked.

“Now, especially in Australia, emission regulations are year-by-year tighter, and also specific combinations – [such as] Australian ANCAP safety – [mean], combination wise, [Australia is] very unique, frankly speaking.

“So, we are carefully watching. We don’t want to make our customers in Australia disappointed, [with] too much expectation, but at the same time, [we need to assess] how [to] provide the ideal-feeling feature car.”

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Calling out potential for Nissan to look at more sporting derivatives of its SUVs, and current and upcoming sedans and hatchbacks, though even then there’s no “concrete commitment to mention”, Sanada-san – head of Nissan sports programs including the GT-R, 370Z, and Nismo between 2012 and 2014 – acknowledges that Australian sports car buyers want genuine performance cars, not just models with sporty styling, as is often welcomed and embraced in other markets in our region.

“We are carefully analysing expectation,” Sanada-san said.

“But our assessment in Australia, [is that] people are not just satisfied by the exterior package. People are expecting performance, suspension tuning, handling. And now maybe, [with] some of our core models – I think the next-generation Sylphy (Pulsar) [and] Altima – [we] are really focussing to improve this fundamental driving performance. So, maybe we are making some base before the tuning.”

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Highlighting Australian customers as being “very European” in their preferences, favouring good engine power, acceleration, exhaust note, and “tight handling”, Sanada-san said, “We are categorically organising these expectations.”

“That’s the reasons we need to be very careful with when, and which car we provide.”

Fortunately for Nissan fans, after many years of waiting, Nismo will finally launch in Australia come February, with the $299,000 Nissan GT-R Nismo the first cab off the rank.

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Although confirmed follow-up Nismo models are still yet to be announced, the 370Z Nismo is widely expected to be key among them, with Nissan Australia corporate communications general manager Peter Fadeyev telling CarAdvice, any 370Z Nismo launch would have no impact on pricing for the rest of the 370Z range.

“I don’t think it would have any other impact at all,” Fadeyev said.

“I can’t give you a percentage [of how much dearer a Nismo 370Z would be compared with a standard car], but there would be a step up. But it has to be competitive as well.

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“The premium you would charge that would be applied to the performance sub-brand therein of a standard catalogue car, such as a 370Z or a GT-R, is representative of the engineering and the technical step up that they make, in terms of the performance they deliver.

“And as [Nissan Australia CEO] Richard Emery has always stipulated, the desire for us to introduce Nismo to Australia has to be far more than wheels, body kit, interior, and stripes – it has to have mechanical solutions in terms of engine performance, and in ride and handling through steering and suspension. And the 370Z, as an example, delivers that.

“I think that even the European marques who have their own performance sub-brands prove that as well. As much as those cars have the elements of styling, interior, exterior, suspension, steering, wheels, brakes, and engine and transmission, their price step up, despite such comprehensive additions and changes and upgrades, is still quite reasonably competitive, and you can expect the same from us.”

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