NASHVILLE -- Nissan North America wants to help its dealers retail more motorsports parts as it pushes for a bigger U.S. role for its Nismo performance brand.
Nissan parts and service officials are planning ways to step up marketing of the Nismo parts line, including a standardized motorsports boutique that would occupy floor space in participating Nissan dealerships.
The company also is working out details for events around the country involving local retailers so consumers can see Nismo-branded vehicles and buy Nismo aftermarket parts. Despite being a big moneymaker in Japan, Nismo parts sales in the United States generated only about $3.5 million in 2012.
The limited target audience here has consisted mostly of owners of Nissan Zs and GT-Rs, the vehicle tuner crowd, video gamers and fans of GT racing, says Rick Kulach, senior planner for motorsports marketing communications at Nissan.
The flow of Nismo parts out of Japan has been limited, as have factory packages of Nismo models.
But all that is changing.
Last year Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn gave the motorsports operation a new headquarters building in Yokohama and vowed to expand the business globally, particularly in the United States.
In November, Nissan introduced a GT-R Nismo and showed audiences in Los Angeles and Tokyo proposed Nismo versions of the Altima and Sentra and of a new B-segment coupe concept it calls the IDx.
"We're anticipating an expansion of the Nismo parts that we get to offer here in the United States," Kulach says.
Not just floor mats, shift knobs and various trim and accessory items will be available, he says, but suspension kits, brakes, exhaust systems, head gaskets and other higher-end components that would give dealer shops more installation opportunities.
For Nissan retailers -- and interested Infiniti dealers, he adds -- the key change is that Nissan is setting up a reliable parts marketing system. Nissan plans to beef up its parts catalog and make sure dealers can get what they order.
In the past it has been hard to get Nismo parts out of Japan, Kulach says. Many parts are sold online. A Nismo suspension kit for a 370Z roadster currently sells online for a little more than $840.
Nissan wants its dealers to capture those sales, Kulach says.
"With the public events we're planning for consumers, you'll have some opportunity for incremental sales. But more importantly, you'll have the exposure," he says. "Customers will see what's available. Dealers will witness what we're doing to help. And they could actually have one of the race cars displayed at their dealership for a few days before the event to increase awareness."