Nissan Australia's new managing director and CEO, William Peffer, says his company's impending involvement in the V8 Supercars Championship will propel it to reach the number one importer status, a goal Nissan has had for some time.
Speaking with the automotive media at today's unveiling of the Nissan V8 supercar engine for Nissan Motorsport's 2013 four-car factory-backed V8 supercar team, Peffer said Nissan Australia "has a clear path for its racing future" and that the company was "not gearing up to burn rubber and money".
Nissan will use the V8 Supercars championship to launch the new mid-sized Nissan Altima (due in Q3 2013) as well as raising the company’s overall profile among the championship’s viewers.
“I am not sure the old saying of win on Sunday, sell on Monday is as obvious and as effective as it once was, but our reasons for lining up with the country’s finest V8 pilots is very clear, racing and winning will polish our brand like no other property can,” Peffer said.
Nissan’s VK56DE engine, which has been modified by Kelly Racing to fit the ‘Car of The Future’ regulations, will become the only engine in the championship that has any real relevance to road cars. But despite its significantly more modern technology, it will be homologated to ensure that it has no advantage over its Ford and Holden rivals in power and torque output or the way in which it delivers it.
Nissan Motorsport has used the VK56 and other derivatives of the VK engine to power everything from 11 of the 18 LMP2 cars at this year’s Le Mans 24-hour endurance race to Nissan GTRs racing in other FIA-sanctioned events. It also happens to be based on the V8 used in the upcoming 2013 Nissan Patrol and Infiniti FX50 SUVs. For its purposes in V8 Supercars, the engine has been reduced in capacity from 5.6- to 5.0-litres.
Nissan Motorsport will build at least 14 Nissan-powered V8 engines to compete in next year’s championship with the majority of modification and tuning done in-house at the team’s newly built headquarters near Melbourne.
Asked if Nissan expects to have a direct increase in sales as a result of its involvement in the 2013 V8 Supercar Championship, Peffer told CarAdvice “there is a chance that it will help us sell some cars, but it also does a great job polishing our brand and demonstrating our technology.” The company is certainly counting on the championship to help raise the profile of the new Nissan Altima, a model that, despite its huge popularity in North America, is basically unknown locally.
The company hopes its racing credentials will also entice buyers on a more general level to view Nissan differently.
“We know that it’s the thrill on the race track that will capture the attention of customers that care about their rides. Those that identify innovations that excite them."
Peffer was also quick to defend the event’s overall appeal when questioned over the series’ viewership demographic and whether or not it would reach a Nissan-friendly consumer base.
“This is Australia’s motorsport, this appeals to everybody. I think V8 Supercars has wider appeal than people give it credit for."
Nissan Australia has signed a multi-year commitment to support the championship and as it currently stands, has no end or walk-off date.
“The primary KPI [key performance indicator] that we are looking at is what happens to our brand, how does it affect our brand, how does our brand grow with this association?”
Asked whether or not the undertaking was done primarily as a branding exercise or to increase sales volume, Peffer admitted that in the early days it would have its biggest impact on the Nissan brand but expects sales to have a measurable positive effect as a result.
The Japanese giant had previously set out to become Australia’s number one importer by the end of the first quarter 2013, but has now removed the timeframe around its ambitious goal.