The head of Nissan Australia says he – like many fans of the Japanese car maker's motorsport and performance arm – is "frustrated" by the continued delay in Nismo being confirmed for our market.
Speaking to CarAdvice at Nissan Australia’s 2016 motorsport season launch at Victoria’s Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, the company's managing director and CEO Richard Emery said timing, availability, engineering requirements, capacity, and approval for Australia are some of the hurdles the local division are having to negotiate to get Nismo road cars into showrooms.
“[There are] certain ticks in boxes that you need, whether it be engineering, whether it be pure production capacity, whether it just be project management in terms of time and resources, and prioritisation as well,” Emery said.
“So all of those things, at this point in time, haven’t allowed us to be at a point to confirm what our timelines are. But, we’re getting there.”
In his role since April 2014, Emery (pictured above) told CarAdvice in April 2015 that “we’ll have a position [on Nismo] nailed in the next six months”. Two months later at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Emery reaffirmed a late-2015 announcement, telling CarAdvice that the Nismo brand and Nismo road cars are key to transforming Nissan from being perceived as a “vanilla” and “boring” brand, to a more “emotional” one.
“It’s a global [issue],” Emery said trackside at Phillip Island.
“They have a limited Nismo road car program in limited markets, and they certainly are keen to expand that. But how quickly do you expand that and how many markets do you start with?
“We keep putting our hand up and saying, ‘We think we should be a priority, we think we have a great opportunity,’ but of course there’s probably 40 other markets saying, ‘But we want to be there as well’. So that’s just a matter of every time we have a product meeting, a development meeting, we say, ‘Okay, how are we going, are we still on the priority list, when can we talk about it?’. That’s just corporate life…”
Asked directly if he finds Nissan Australia’s ‘wait and see’ position frustrating, Emery said: “Yes, of course.” But the local chief says pulling the pin on the whole project before it even launches isn’t something he’s considering doing either.
“No. You’ve got to understand that car companies have been around a long time – Nissan’s been around a long time, [Nissan Australia’s] been in Australia for 50 years. So me getting frustrated for six months, or our dealers saying, ‘Why can’t we have Nismos?’… that’s six months out of 50 years. It’s nothing.”
Emery confirmed that while it continues to be an “ongoing process”, he would like to see an announcement made about the launch of Nismo Australia happen “sometime this year”.
“I think I said that last year,” Emery said with a wry smile.
“We could’ve fast tracked it by doing alloy wheels and a spoiler and a sticker, but I don’t think that’s what we want to do as a brand with Nismo.”
Highlighting the fact that Nismo, at its core, is a motorsport division that occasionally makes road cars, rather than being part of a brand’s road car program but with motorsport ties, Emery said although Nismo does build and sell its own road cars, numbers are highly limited – a key differentiator compared with the likes of BMW’s ‘M’ Division or Mercedes-AMG models.
“In any product development phase, in terms of markets being on the list for cars and the engineering requirements – Australia has quite unique [ADR and safety] circumstances – that sometimes slows things down longer than you’d like them to be. And that’s exactly where we’re at with Nismo.”
Timing of any Nismo Australia launch will also have to take into account that, while a potential vehicle line-up is (obviously) yet to be confirmed, the Nissan Juke Nismo RS first debuted at the 2014 Geneva motor show, the repeatedly updated 370Z Nismo dates back to 2009, and even the highly desirable GT-R Nismo was first unveiled in 2013.
Emery acknowledged the potential model-relevance risk attached to further delays, but said missing the boat with the current crop of Nismo cars is “not a concern”, though it is “another consideration to think about”.
Nismo was founded in Japan 31 years ago, in September of 1984.
Images by David Zalstein.