Print ads target Nissan on BladeGlider design

The open letter to Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn from Panoz in the June 13 edition of The Tennessean in Nashville.
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Editor's note: An incorrect photo of the Panoz DeltaWing was published in an earlier version of this story.

Racing mogul Don Panoz, who sued Nissan Motor Corp. last year alleging that the company copied the unusual shape of his DeltaWing race car, is stepping up his campaign with a series of print advertisements aimed at Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

One of the ads, which appeared on June 13 in the Nashville Tennessean and on June 23 in Automotive News, is an open letter to Ghosn requesting that he meet with Panoz about the design of Nissan’s ZEOD RC race car, which started this month at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“We certainly don’t believe that you intended for your company to go as far as using the design ideas of others without proper compensation or recognition,” the ad says. “Yet, that is exactly what has happened.”

A spokesman for Panoz’s company, DeltaWing Technologies Inc. of suburban Atlanta, said Panoz has tried mediation outside of the Georgia court where he filed his lawsuit, but Nissan “dismissed the offer and other attempts to find a solution haven’t netted satisfactory results.”

DeltaWing's rendering of a street car.

Nissan is a former sponsor of Panoz’s DeltaWing race car, which shook up the racing world in 2012 with its narrow front track and wide rear track -- a shape long dismissed as too unstable for street cars, let alone race cars.

During testing at Le Mans, Nissan’s similarly shaped ZEOD RC completed an 8.5-mile lap on battery power with a top speed of 186 mph. But the gasoline-electric hybrid broke down five laps into the race with transmission problems.

Al Speyer, president of the DeltaWing project, told Automotive News in April that Panoz could offer Nissan exclusive rights to use the wedge shape for electric production cars such as the BladeGlader concept unveiled at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show; DeltaWing would retain the licensing rights for cars with internal-combustion engines.

Nissan dismissed Panoz’s arguments.

“We believe that his claims have no merit,” a spokesman wrote. “We will continue to fight his claims in court, but we choose not to address through the media his smears against us. The issues will be resolved in due course.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.


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