The chances of a showroom future for Nissan’s retro-styled IDx concepts are fading, according to a new report out of the US this week.
Revealed in 2013, the race- and road-styled concepts were trumpeted by former Nissan product boss Andy Palmer (now at Aston Martin) as the product of close consultation with young ‘Generation Z’ motorists, known within Nissan as “digital natives”.
Inspired by classic Nissan models like the 510 Bluebird, the IDx concepts were presented as a potential budget-end rival to Toyota’s 86 Coupe, but with an even greater focus on nostalgic appeal.
However, reports over the past year have suggested that a viable business case for such a model is proving elusive.
In July last year, Nissan executive Pierre Loing told American website Ward’s Auto that the numbers for a relatively low-volume model are difficult to put together.
"If you do something like this and you manage to do a vehicle at [a low price], what else would you do on this platform,” Loing said at the time.
"Because frankly to do a platform for 50,000 or 60,000 [units] a year, it’s not worth it."
Now, Loing has spoken again on the IDx’s production potential, singling out the importance of scale in deciding on new models and platforms.
"To do them (dedicated sports cars) properly, in our case, you can't rely on an existing rear-wheel drive platform, because its dimensions are for a much larger powertrain,” Loing told enthusiast site The Truth About Cars this week.
“So, for us, it would mean developing a different rear-wheel drive platform, and then we are bumping into the same obstacles every other automaker has: the volumes of a small, sporty car are not enough to justify the investment."
Due in Australia in August, the new MX-5 will launch with a 1.5 litre petrol engine and a $31,990 price tag, making the price of entry more than $15,000 lower than the previous model. A more expensive 2.0 litre version will land later in the year.
For Nissan, the trick in taking on Toyota and Mazda in the affordability stakes without giving up the current Z's position as a powerful (and more expensive) alternative, could rest in offering a smaller engine with a new entry model.
Rumours of a smaller-engined Z date back to 2012, with former Nissan product manager and now Infiniti executive, Francois Bancon telling TMR that a four-cylinder engine or a small V6 could make a clever companion to a more powerful engine.
“I’m not saying the Z should not have a six-cylinder, because a huge number of Z owners want a V6,” he said. “But if you want to extend [sales] volume I think you should add something to the V6."
“Whether that’s a four-cylinder or a smaller-capacity V6 I don’t know, those details are not confirmed yet.”
It won't be the first time the Z has had a range of engine choices, with the Z32 model of the 1990s having been available with either a naturally-aspirated or twin-turbocharged 3.0 litre V6.
Nissan won't likely reveal its hand for at least another year, though with the 370Z now into its sixth year on the market, an announcement won't be far away.
Expect to hear more about Nissan's sports car plans at October's Tokyo Motor Show.
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