YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Nissan Motor Co., seeking traction for its Nismo performance tuner subbrand, is embarking on a massive global expansion to double the number of nameplates getting the Nismo treatment and deliver a sixfold increase in sales over the next five years.
The push could expand the line of Nismo offerings to new body types including crossovers, minivans and -- in the U.S. especially -- pickups. Nissan also wants to build a network of Nismo performance dealerships in the U.S. as special brand promotion centers and offer Nismo performance driving academies to U.S. consumers.
Nissan currently offers seven Nismo nameplates, including versions of the GT-R, Juke, 370Z and Sentra. It wants to double the number of nameplates by 2022, says Takao Katagiri, CEO of Nissan Motorsports International Co., the Nissan subsidiary overseeing Nismo.
Nissan aims to boost Nismo sales to 100,000 in the early 2020s, from 15,000 last year.
"Demand for these types of cars is about 5 to 10 percent of every market," Katagiri said at Nismo's global headquarters and r&d center near Nissan's head office in Yokohama.
"It's the same all over the world," he said. About 9 percent of Nissan Note hatchback sales in Japan are the Note e-Power Nismo hybrid version, he added.
Nismo sales reached 2,300 vehicles in the U.S. in the fiscal year ended March 31, down from 3,000 units the year before due to slowing sales of the aging Juke Nismo RS, Katagiri said. He expects sales to increase in the current year with the addition of the Sentra Nismo.
The U.S. and Europe hold the greatest potential for sales growth over the next couple of years, Katagiri said. But China, Southeast Asia and Latin America are possible markets.
Nissan will add body types, possibly including a Nismo pickup for the U.S., he said.
"We see potential in the expansion of categories," Katagiri said, adding that Nismo will begin targeting lifestyle vehicles beyond the Nismo mainstays in sedans, coupes and hatchbacks.
Select outlets will be tapped as Nismo performance dealers.
These shops will get special display areas, demo cars and special training for technicians. There are already 26 performance dealers in Japan but none yet overseas.
Nismo will broaden its lineup beyond its Nismo-appointed core models to include a top tier of high performance models and a lower rung of Nismo factory options, Katagiri said. Katagiri did not offer timelines or details for those plans.
In Japan, Nismo begins the buildout this year by launching the Nismo Driving Academy, a high-performance driving school for owners.
Nismo will hold eight academy days this year at racetracks around Japan, including driving days at the country's two Formula One courses: Fuji Speedway and Suzuka Circuit. Nissan aims to bring the Driving Academy to the U.S. and Europe but has not decided on a timeline. c