Nissan opened a new global headquarters for its Nismo performance brand in Yokohama yesterday, at the same time as announcing a considerable promotion of the formerly niche brand to global performance car brand. Henceforth, the name Nismo will be used as the affordable yet high performance developer of every model in the Nissan range just as Mercedes Benz uses AMG, or BMW uses the M logo.
The Juke Nismo will be the first Nismo model, followed by new 370Z Nismo and some time later this year, an even higher performance version of Nissan's supercar GT-R will gain a Nismo badge, even more horsepower, and even better handling.
The opening ceremony saw Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn explaining that Nismo will now play an even more prominent role as the company's performance car brand, joining Infiniti as one of the company's major brands as it seeks to move global volumes upwards to the same levels as General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota.
Hence the offshoot company that came into being with the production of the first Nissan performance car, the NISsan MOtorsport Skyline 2000GT, five decades ago, is to become a valid showroom brand in its own right.
Ghosn also promised the rapid introduction of new Nismo models, with at least one new model every year to the end of 2016.
Ghosn announced his "Nissan Power 88" business plan last year, publicly pronouncing that by the end of 2016, he wants the company to be operating with an eight percent profit margin (up from 6.1%) and eight percent of global sales (up from 5.8%).
Only a handful of company CEOs would dare to make such a public and ambitious announcement but Ghosn has a habit of walking the talk, having made far more outrageous pronouncements in the past and achieving overly ambitious goals years ahead of target time-frames.
One of the keys to the Nissan Power 88 business plan was "brand and sales power enhancement" and it's not really surprising that Nismo will be asked to step up to global brand status given that Ghosn championed the GT-R which has become the company's flagship model and offers super car performance at a far more proletarian price point than cars it can out-perform.
"Nismo will democratise performance and bring new excitement to the Nissan portfolio with a broader range of affordable and innovative performance models for more markets and more people," said Ghosn.
"Whether it's a small car or a sports car, if it's wearing the Nismo badge it offers something special - quality, functionality, and efficiency, with Nismo's distinctive styling, sporty handling and dynamic performance capabilities."
The first Nismo Nissan, the Juke Nismo, is already on sale in Europe and Japan and will become available in the key U.S. marketplace in June.
A new 370Z Nismo will be next, followed by the GT-R.
A Nismo GT-R already exists, but it is the GT3 race spec version and it isn't road registerable. That's it below, and no details have yet been released on the road version due later this year.
The new facility opened by Ghosn yesterday is a former Nissan production site and is significant in that it represents the first time that the entire Nismo 180-strong development team is located in one site, at the same time as greatly expanding resources so the team can expand beyond motorsport engineering to encompass performance road car development alongside Nissan.
With the Nismo brand moving from the racetrack to the road, it is likely to become a significantly youth-focused automotive brand thanks to already being familiar to millions of driving simulation game fans through Asphalt 7: Heat and the Gran Turismo series.
Nismo's new charter will also impact Nissan's future motorsport activities, where it is expected to boldly enhance Nissan's reputation for excitement and innovation.
Nismo is taking on global responsibility for managing Nissan's motorsport program which includes top level competition in every region of the world, a serious crack at the Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 2014, Australian V8 Supercar racing, and the continuation of the Nissan Playstation Academy.