“We haven’t yet decided anything about whether next-generation Z should be anything larger or with more power,” he said.
In a clear reference to a switch of vehicle type, Nakamura added: “We
need to take another path. I feel Z needs more revolution than evolution. I think
GT-R has to stay the most high-performance symbol
of Nissan technology and Z
is a more affordable sports car or a sporty car to get the younger people.”
Blog - Is a Z crossover a wise move for Nissan?
Nissan executive vice-president Trevor Mann has supported Nakamura’s view. He told Autocar: “We do
know that Z, as a sub-brand
if you like, has high equity.
The market is not like it
used to be, though, so I
think that if you do something, you’ll need to do something which is quite special, to attract the segment.”
When asked to comment directly on Nakamura’s statement, Mann said: “If that’s what Nakamura said, then I guess he might be right, in terms of re-establishing the links to something people can connect to.”
That’s likely to be a reference to price. It’s thought the new Z crossover will be notably cheaper than a £30k 370Z and its range-toppers could overlap with the lower-end editions of the Qashqai.
The new Z will be similar in size to the Nissan Juke although, unlike the current version of that car, the new model will be based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s latest CMF B platform. Its engine line-up will be able to include the full range of 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engines.
It’s unclear if the new model will be a coupé-esque three-door or if Nissan will include a pair of rear doors with hidden handles. It’s likely that the roofline will compromise rear cabin space for adults, though, making the Z crossover a car with occasional rear seats at best. The more extreme concept, which will be designed to gauge reaction after the Frankfurt show, may even be a two-seater only.
The new platform has the flexibility to accommodate hybrid powertrains, so it’s possible the concept at least will showcase a set-up featuring an electric motor to drive one of the axles.
Nissan is likely to argue that the GT-R has managed to mix strong performance credentials with a rear-biased four-wheel drive system and that a hybrid crossover can provide some of the same character - while potentially also offering zero-emissions running for short distances.
The Z should allow Nissan to compete in the lucrative middle ground on small crossovers, attracting buyers who don’t want as large a car as the Qashqai but who find the Juke too quirky nor not sporty enough.
The demographics of Juke buyers are said to have confounded Nissan product planners. The average age of Juke buyers is in the late 40s, but this is based on really young purchasers and a surprisingly large band of elderly customers.
A Z-badged crossover would also be a legitimate choice of vehicle for the Nismo tuning division. Nissan hopes to extend the sub-brand’s influence with cars like the forthcoming Pulsar Nismo, but senior figures insist it will not be applied to models that don’t allow it to deliver genuine performance credentials.It’s thought the continued strength of Juke sales has allowed Nissan to consider adding a further small crossover to its line-up.