We started reporting on both of these cars back in 2007. Because news of the projects emerged at more or less the same time – and because Renault and Nissan collaborate on so many projects – our understandable assumption was that their development would be linked. But only this week I discovered that, if the credit crunch hadn’t happened, they wouldn’t actually have been related ‘alliance cars’ at all.
A Nissan Europe product manager let it slip that the 200SX replacement was very real - and all Nissan. “It was called the ‘NS’ project,” he told me. “We discussed working with Renault on it, but actually decided to proceed on our own. After all, we could have given Renault our rear-drive platform, but what would we have got in return?”
“We spent a few months considering our options, and what positioning the new car should have,” he went on. “We even got as far as a ‘targeting’ exercise in the US, when we spent several days evaluating the established players in the affordable sports car market; Scirocco, MX-5 RC, Elise – even Scion tC and Hyundai Coupe.
“The funding for the project was pulled out from underneath us shortly after that targeting exercise. But had we proceeded, it would have been with a rear-driven, four-cylinder turbo car.” What a shame they didn’t.
The Renault Alpine’s fate may have been sealed the day that Nissan decided to go it alone with its affordable sports car. All we know about that car is that, as little as a year ago, very senior Renault executives would regularly hint that a proper, affordable, rear-driven Alpine was in the works. And then, all of a sudden, they just stopped talking about it.
Toyota and Subaru also suffered the loss of their joint-venture ‘Toyobaru’ sports car, of course. With a flat-four engine and rear-drive, maybe that would have been the car to finally stick it to Mazda’s long-reigning MX-5. We’ll never know.
What we can do is have a damn good barney while we speculate. So which do you think would have become the next decade’s best affordable sports car: 200SX, Alpine, Toyobaru or MX-5?
Technorati Tags: Nissan 200SX, Renault Alpine, Toyobaru, Mazda MX-5