Nissan's design chief and senior vice president Shiro Nakamura says the Japanese automaker only has space for two sportscars in its lineup, and that the IDX concept and next-generation Z car may be merged into one model.
Nissan's other current sports car is the 370Z, but Nakamura concedes that it has become too expensive to be seen as an affordable option.
A recent price drop from $69,890 to $56,930 has given sales a small shot in the arm, but so far this year only 292 Nissan 370Zs have been sold in Australia.
And with competitor Toyota making the budget-priced 86 a major success story with over 3200 local sales, Nissan is keen to bring down the cost of entry to its sports car range and tap into rising demand for affordable performance products.
According to Nakamura, one way of doing that would be to merge the lightweight four-cylinder IDX concept with the next-generation Z - though a precise strategy has yet to be fleshed out.
“How we can use that kind of approach to get the next-generation Z, that can be our homework,” Nakamura said.
The result could be a four-pot RWD sports coupe that allows Nissan to retain the Z badge while simultaneously bringing down costs.
It's an idea we've heard before from Nissan, with then-Deputy General Manager of Product Planning (now Infiniti product chief) Francois Bancon telling TMR in 2012 that a downsized engine strategy would likely be applied to the next-generation Z car.
“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.”
“For the Z you need a high-performance powertrain though, so downsizing the V6 may be a better solution.”
A multi-engine lineup for the 370Z's successor may be the result, with a small-displacement four-cylinder powering a cost-sensitive base model, and a high-output V6 as the flagship engine.
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 approaching its sixth birthday an announcement won't be far away. Expect to hear more about Nissan's sports car plans at next year's Tokyo Motor Show.
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