Nismo-Japan-Range

Nismo, Nissan’s performance brand, is set to follow the path set by BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG in an attempt to widen its appeal and customer base. This was the main takeaway from a presentation by Nismo’s chief product specialist and “Mr. GT-R” Hiroshi Tamura, who met our Nissan 360 Asia and Oceania contingent at the 2015 Nismo Festival last weekend.

Unlike many Japanese auto executives, Tamura-san is an animated speaker and oozes enthusiasm for the GT-R (a fan since 10), the Nismo brand which he leads, and cars in general (he showed us pics of his old FC Mazda RX-7 and AW11 Toyota MR2, and still keeps a 600 hp R32 Skyline GT-R). A real car guy, but the reality is that a performance brand can no longer just focus on “car guys” and a wider net has to be cast.

“Our aim has always been and will remain the pursuit of the ultimate driving pleasure from our vehicles. We are sharing our spirit at Nismo Festval and we also have to ask, what is our target buyer for the future for both Nissan and Nismo products?” he asks. “What kind of customer do I want and need to chase? That’s my main concern at the moment,” Tamura, 53, added.

Hiroshi Tamura Nismo

The presentation that followed answered the question. It describes the Nismo brand as “the ultimate essence of Nissan’s innovation and excitement as a performance and personalisation brand.”

The link between Nismo and performance link is well established, but the “personalisation” bit is new. To elaborate, the “three circles” of Nismo’s new brand strategy are performance born in motorsports, progressive design and personalisation, and advanced information technology and connectivity.

Nismo has identified two groups of customers. Target number one is the traditional performance seeker and this group will be served by the brand’s “Nismo RS” and “Nismo S” badged cars.

Click to enlarge images

Important things here are increased power and acceleration, uprated brakes and exhaust/engine sound, basically a car that’s “a descendant of the technology we use on track,” according to Tamura. The 600 hp GT-R Nismo is the ultimate example of such a car, but there are also Nismo S versions of the Note and March/Micra hatchbacks that tick all the above boxes.

The other target is the “highlife seeker,” one who focuses on style and appearance. Nismo branded cars will feature aesthetic enhancements in and out, with function to match. Bodykits, Nismo wheels, sportier seats and Alcantara trim fall into this category, along with a reinforced chassis and sportier suspension/steering calibration for improved handling. Models in this mould are offered in Malaysia.

Tamura picked an interesting (and very effective if you’re a sports fan) illustration – Michael Krumm, a pro racer for Nissan in Super GT and Le Mans is Type 1, while his Japanese tennis player wife Kimiko Date-Krumm represents the second group.

From L-R: Nissan GT-R 45th Anniversary Gold Edition, US-spec GT-R with the Nismo N Attack Package

Even the company’s iconic GT-R follows this approach. The R35 GT-R is an uncompromising beast of a machine but today’s car gets two outfits – the standard car, with improved ride comfort and NVH levels, emphasises the neglected “GT” part of the equation, while the GT-R Nismo takes care of Nurburgring lap times and those who want the most ferocious Godzilla from the factory.

A famous in-house tuning brand is a valuable asset outside of the torch-bearing flagships, just ask BMW (M Sport) and Mercedes-Benz (AMG Line). Expect to see more fruits from the Nismo tree’s two branches.