Nissan is trying to figure out if there is room in the market for an entry-level sports car that is smaller, more lightweight, and more affordable than the 350Z.
The Japanese automaker is interested in a front-wheel-drive sports car that could compete with the Mazda MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky, Nissan North America vice-president in charge of product planning and strategy Larry Dominique tells Car and Driver in an interview.
“We’re looking at it,” Dominique says of a car that would live in the $20,000 price range, and wouldn’t really be a threat to the rear-drive Z that starts at $28,600 for 2008. The 2008 Miatas base price is $21,220; the Pontiac Solstice’s is $22,400.
Such a car would appeal to the echo boomers who can’t afford a Nissan GT-R. To this demographic, $15,000-to-$22,000 vehicles will be important, he says.
Food for thought: Nissan showed the Urge concept, a small 2400-pound, rear-drive roadster with a small-displacement engine and six-speed manual transmission, at the 2006 Detroit auto show. Designer Bruce Campbell says the Urge itself is not for primetime, but the chemistry is there and the design represents the future of a smaller sports car. Nissan would fail with a conventional baby Z sports car, he says.
Although the three-passenger Urge will not make it to showrooms, production cars in the future will have elements of the concept, Dominique tells us.
No decisions have been made yet, says Tom Lane, corporate vice-president in charge of product planning and strategy for the parent company, Nissan Motor Corporation, as feasibility studies continue. “How big is the market, really?” he asks. “I’m not sure if there is room.”
Another alternative is to make the next 350Z more efficient and lighter, Lane says of the sports car that came out in 2003 and is due for replacement next year.