GT-R will bring NISSAN brand World Prestige to likes of Porsche.
Nissan promises special care for GT-R sports car
By YURI KAGEYAMA,
Posted: 2007-10-17 06:17:34
TOKYO (AP) - Nissan's new super-sports car, the GT-R, is a rare challenge to European and American automakers by a Japanese company more used to family friendly offerings like the Altima sedan.
Nissan claims the muscle car, to be introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show opening next week, is so sophisticated it is training scores of maintenance workers at dealers in Japan to service the vehicle.
"The GT-R requires special attention because its technology is so advanced," Corporate Vice President Takao Katagiri said Wednesday. "It also calls for finesse in salesmanship because the sales representative must deal with customers who are going to be very demanding."
Nissan's North American headquarters are in Nashville and the carmaker has two plants in Tennessee.
Nissan is setting up 160 showrooms called "high-performance centers" around the country for maintenance work on the GT-R.
Similar back-up support for the GT-R is being considered for the U.S., where the sale will follow the Japan debut, but details aren't decided. The service will be offered at American Nissan, not Infiniti luxury, showrooms.
BMW and Porsche sports cars need special care for their revved up, delicate engines, but such dealers are prepared for high-quality maintenance.
Anticipation is high among car fans for the 7.8 million yen ($67,000) Nissan GT-R, although Nissan has given scant specifics. The company has not given a U.S. price yet, but the vehicle is being promised to come under $80,000.
Nissan already sells other sporty models, including the Z sports car, but it costs a third of the GT-R, which is billed as more powerful.
Nissan has set up a Web page with a countdown clock until the launch to hype the car. GT-R won't be promoted in Japan with any TV ads, which Nissan says are only effective for mass market models.
The model will be on show at the Tokyo auto show, which opens to the public Oct. 27. The event also displays many futuristic "concept" models that aren't for sale.
Analysts say that high-end sports cars aren't expected to sell in numbers, especially after the hype wears off, but they are critical for a manufacturer's image, not a practical moneymaking endeavor.
"Obviously, the size of the market is very, very small," said Credit Suisse Japan auto analyst Koji Endo. "It's really an image issue."
Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. is also strengthening its sports car lineup, and recently showed the Lexus IS F, which goes on sale in Japan in December, and early next year elsewhere.
Sports cars come with some risks.
Nissan officials said they were worried about possible social ills - citing safety and noise concerns - from how people might use or modify such a powerful car.
"We feel a social responsibility," said Nissan marketing director Yoshimitsu Kaji. "We must deliver on maintenance so everything is safe and legal."
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10/17/07 06:16 EDT