Nissan may be going through a massive lineup reboot, but the Japanese auto giant has not lost sight of the importance of the Nismo performance sub-brand to their long-term sales strategy. It has been a while since we heard anything from Nismo outside of the GT-R sports car, but a new statement by a high-ranking Nissan exec appears to confirm that Nissan still sees potential in the performance market.
Expanding The Global Footprint Requires Some Pieces
That’s according to NISMO Global CEO Takao Katagiri, who opened up on Nismo’s future in a recent interview with Automotive News. Katagiri admitted that the Japanese home market had been the sole focus of Nismo products in recent years. The company will be changing this strategy from now on and include Europe and North America in more product launches.
“In overseas markets, the U.S. and Europe included, the so-called globalization of Nismo is something we are going to do from now on.
For that to happen, Nismo will have to further expand into the crossover and utility markets for the brand to make a broader sales impact. At the moment, Nismo’s reach in the United States has been limited at best (GT-R excluded), with the second generation Frontier and the Sentra compact all receiving Nismo packages that focused the bulk of their attention on styling versus improving performance.
But in the U.S., utilities, and pickups are leading the sales charts, forcing Nismo to potentially make some interesting decisions outside mandatory shoo-ins like the recently unveiled Nissan Z. One strong possibility is that there could be a Nismo version of the Kicks CUV. The Kicks is the successor to the Juke in the U.S., and while it brings more poise and refinement to buyers, a lack of oomph has always been a prominent weakness. A Nismo version could help inject some performance under the hood and add some substance to its styling. This would allow the Kicks to compete with the Hyundai Kona N-Line and other performance-tinged CUVs.
Another possible Nismo contender would be the Nissan Rogue. The Rogue has already emerged as a solid contender in the family vehicle segment thanks to its improved cabin and exterior styling. With the Rogue targeting the Hyundai Tuscon, a Nismo-badged version would allow it to be prepared for any N-Line-related response while also competing against similar flavors of the Chevrolet Equinox Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.
Haven’t We Heard This Before?
But look closely, and it may seem that we have heard this record before. Katagiri’s recent comments are a near carbon copy of what he said to AN back in 2017. Back then, Katagiri confirmed that Nismo was in the process of expansion. Still, an important thing to remember is that those words came before COVID-19 became a prevalent global disruptor and sidelined plans for many companies around the globe (including Nissan.)
But looking at what already exists elsewhere in the industry could perhaps serve as a guide into how Nissan might have revised those plans since 2017. Some automakers are offering driving schools for customers that purchase a performance model. As mentioned prior, they are splitting their performance lineup into two distinctive trees, models that offer a budget-focused approach to performance and models that go all-in on delivering world-class performance.
Look for this to not come into full fruition for another few years, so in the meantime, we will have to be teased from across the pond by some of the current offerings that Nismo has on deck for international customers. That includes the 2021 Nismo Patrol (Armada), which infuses this large people hauler with some slick performance accents inside and out.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.