Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained the incorrect byline of the author.
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Takao Katagiri, head of Nissan Motor Co.’s global motorsports program as well as its Nismo performance division, learned early the value of having a backup car.
During his racing days in college, he had his fair share of crashes and bruises.
He mellowed after joining Nissan in 1983. The racing didn’t stop but the crashes did.
Now he keeps two cars in the garage for his Japan rally racing activities, just in case. His go-to vehicle: a classic 1990s Nissan three-door hot hatch, the Pulsar GTI-R.
“It’s a 2-liter intercooled turbo four-wheel drive. It’s a crazy car,” Katagiri says. He bought it used, sold it to a friend and then bought it back for racing.
The backup is a mint condition GTI-R he bought off a “millionaire” who stashed it away in storage unused. That Pulsar is a rare Nismo edition, one of only about 20 ever made.
“You could say it’s a classic,” says Katagiri, 57, who became head of Nismo last year after a stint as Nissan’s executive vice president for global sales, aftersales, light commercial vehicles and zero emissions. “I bought it as a spare car, so if one car has a problem, I can convert it.”
Katagiri still gets behind the wheel for about three rally races a year in Japan. “Without competing, it’s not fun for me,” he says.
It also helps him stay plugged in to his current work as Nissan’s top track exec.
At the office at Nissan’s headquarters here, Katagiri’s latest push is putting more customers into Nismo-tuned Nissans. He wants to double the number of nameplates getting Nismo treatment to at least 14 vehicles by 2022, and to boost Nismo sales to 100,000 in the early 2020s, from 15,000 last year.