DETROIT — Rumors of the death of Nissan's Z sports car are greatly exaggerated, says Nissan Motor Co.'s chief planning officer, Philippe Klein.
Does that mean a successor is in the wings for the 370Z, which has been in production since 2009?
"We're working on it and it's very present, but I have no indication to give you," Klein told Automotive News this month at the Detroit auto show.
Press reports late last year speculated that the Z's market case has become too challenging and that Nissan would likely throw in the towel on it. Klein says otherwise.
"The Z is a difficult market," he said. "It is rather shrinking worldwide. But we still believe there is a place for the Z and we want to keep it alive, and that's what we're working on.
"That's for the midterm," he said. "For the long term, there are other considerations. If we do a complete new vehicle, what should it be to keep the passion alive? And we're working very seriously on this — how we can keep the Z alive and refreshing and what would be the next generation?"
But he said the rise of SUVs and crossovers has shifted consumers' mindset away from "speed, acceleration and cornering" as vehicle attributes.
At the same time, government regulations have increased the weight and price of vehicles with added safety equipment, heavier axles and bigger brakes. All of that makes it challenging to create a next-generation Z, traditionally marketed as an affordable and lightweight sports car.
But that doesn't mean the concept is dead, Klein said.
"The passion is there," he said. "The question is how can we refresh it and what will be the breakthrough for the long term?"