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Nissan dithering on next-gen Z car

Nissan’s chief planning officer, Philipe Klein, has played a very straight bat when asked when — or if — a successor to the nine-year old 370Z halo sports car will be launched, meaning the next iteration seems years away in even the best-case scenario.
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Speaking to media, including CarAdvice, at the Tokyo motor show this week, the man in charge of planning, developing and implementing the company's global product strategy seemed to indicate that the Z program was well down the company’s priority list.

“There is a lot of passion behind this vehicle… at the same time it’s a segment that is gradually declining, making the case more difficult,” he told us, adding the GT-R perhaps had more potential as a brand leader.

“We have no intention to quit excitement, but we’re going to make it happen in different ways,” he said. There’s a few lines to read between there…

However, lovers of the iconic Z line that goes all the way back to the Datsun 240Z should be somewhat reassured that at least Nissan’s engineers and designers are chomping at the bit to continue the legacy.

For instance, Nissan’s engineers are investigating the use of electrification in a performance context — headlined by its just-announced Formula E entry for the 2018/19 season — plus Control Logic motor torque vectoring.

For one, there’s the brand’s e-Power hybrid system, already used on the Japanese-market Note and Serena, which uses a combustion engine to generate power for the electric motor/s that actually drive the wheels. Like a range-extender that doesn’t plug in externally.

“GT-R and Z cars are our symbol, so we want to launch a new vehicle,” Hideyuki Sakamoto, Nissan’s executive vice president of product engineering, said in a separate meeting.

“We are now studying utilisation of e-power to create more aggression. Timing is strictly prohibited [though],” he said.

The other option would be to use the technology premiered this week in the company’s IMx concept, an EV crossover with motors on the front and rear axle, with a combined system output of 320kW/700Nm.

“For quite high power and torque, e-Power has a very very high level of possibility. EV is of course also available,” Sakamoto suggested.

Nissan’s design chief Alfonso Albaisa also added to the mix his desire to create more iconic sports cars — particularly a next GT-R, we’d add — citing his childhood discovery of the Jaguar E-Type as the catalyst for his career in car design.

“Next question…?” he asked cheekily when the next Z question was lobbed.

“I can say we don’t have a fixed thing yet… but how can we completely blind of the importance of that name to the company?

“Maybe you can feel that I love these cars… but I can’t say too much or I’ll be taking a train home [instead of my company car]!," he added.

As you may recall, there has long been conjecture that the next Z car may become a crossover, as previewed by the Nissan Gripz concept premiered in late 2015.


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