NASHVILLE -- When Nissan North America shows its $100,000 re-engineered 2014 GT-R supercar at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, one man will not be present: the world-recognized father of the car, Kazutoshi Mizuno.
But contrary to widespread reports, the demanding and independent engineering executive is not off the program. He has not retired from Nissan. He has not been relegated to a consulting role. And he has not cut back his activity, confirms Carl Phillips, the GT-R's North American chief marketing manager.
"Mizuno-san is still very much calling the shots on this car," Phillips says. "I just had a video conference with him last week. He is the heart of the GT-R program."
Mizuno turned 60 this year. A company spokesman denied that he would be forced to retire in accordance with a mandatory age-60 retirement rule at Nissan.
To the contrary, Phillips says he is working out plans for Mizuno to travel to the United States next year to visit with GT-R owners, Nissan dealers and U.S. consumers about future GT-R plans. Phillips says Mizuno -- who oversees every aspect of Nissan's highest priced product, from component materials to factory volume -- will supervise GT-R speed trials at Germany's Nurburgring racetrack next year.
Mizuno insists on running only with the base-model GT-R, rather than higher-performance versions. "He wants to make sure that everybody who buys a GT-R gets the capability that we say it has, even the base model," Phillips says.
GT-R sales volume is a drop in the bucket compared with the brand's high-volume Altimas and Maximas. But with U.S. sales forecast at 1,440 for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, the volume would be up 24 percent from the last fiscal year.
"He has a very unique role at Nissan," Phillips says. "He has a real passion for the car inside of him. If he says, 'I want to have this on the car,' the car will have it."