They very well could be merged into one, conceded design chief and senior vice president Shiro Nakamura, in an interview with Motor Authority at the Paris Auto Show this past week. According to Nakamura, Nissan wants to continue the lineage of the Z, but it only has room for two sports cars in the lineup. And the flagship GT-R isn't budging.
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This news coincides with what then executive vice president Andy Palmer hinted prior to the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, where the IDx models were originally introduced, yet runs counter to what was reported after the show, suggesting that Nissan lacks a platform; that it might instead be built as a front-wheel-drive car; or that it would be compromised with a downsized version of the current Z platform.
Two pure sports cars in Nissan's future—and GT-R is one of them
Nakamura admitted that sports cars are becoming difficult to make financially viable for a mainstream brand like Nissan, and that there can be no more than two pure sports cars in the automaker's lineup.
“We will continue producing sports cars...it's the heart of Nissan,” said Nakamura. “But 'how' is not simple, and GT-R, the quickest production sports car in the world, has to stay in that position.”
The GT-R is most definitely part of that two-sports-car future, the executive assured—and there will be plenty of other sporty cars that meet the definition of a sports car to some, like the Juke NISMO RS, he added. The current GT-R, although it received a major update this year, is now seven years along in its product cycle; and a next-generation GT-R, while under development, is still at least three years out.
2015 Nissan 370Z NISMO
“The Z is the affordable sports car, but the current Z has become a little bit more than affordable,” lamented Nakamura. “Same as the original Z, it's becoming bigger and more expensive.”
Next-generation Z (or IDx) going leaner, lighter, more affordable
Nakamura added that the automaker needs to think about how it can make the Z more affordable and approachable for the customer. And when asked about the success of the Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S / Toyota FT86 trio, Nakamura acknowledged that it's generated a lot of enthusiasm, and “we have to follow it.”
No doubt, the IDx concepts have generated a buzz. Harking back to models like the original 1960s and '70s Datsun (Nissan) 510, and lean coupes like the classic BMW 2002, the IDx simultaneously pays homage to company heritage while wooing a new generation of drivers.
“The Z is a simple sports car; it has nearly 50 years' history,” said Nakamura, hinting that the challenge lies in how you combine the spirit of Nissan's two models. Adding to the progress of the Z as a contemporary sports car, Nakamura pointed to the IDx concepts as not so futuristic, yet very fresh.
“How we can use that kind of approach to get the next-generation Z, that can be our homework,” he said, adding that the project to synergize such a new affordable sports car will take several years and cannot be done quickly.
“And that's two directions,” summed Nakamura. “We want to keep a very high end super performance sports car; and Z or IDx—whichever—a more affordable, approachable sports car.”