Nissan's Z May Not Be Dead Yet

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Nissan’s 370Z is just shy of its tenth birthday and has really begun to show its age. While it remains a relative bargain if you’re seeking an imported rear-drive sports car, it loses that advantage if you’re willing to consider its domestic rivals. It’s a solid performance package by most metrics. But it’s capable in the same way a retired olympic athlete might be. It’ll still destroy your chubby neighbor in a foot race but not his teenage son, who just happens to be captain of his high school track team.

The company needs a replacement. However, back in October, Nissan’s chief planning officer Philippe Klein was extremely noncommittal when it came to naming the 370Z’s successor. “It’s an interesting question because there is a lot of passion people [have for] this vehicle,” Klein said at the Tokyo Motor Show. “This vehicle is still very alive but at the same time it is in a segment that is gradually declining, so that is making the [business] case more difficult.”

So that’s it. The Z is dead. Case closed… or is it? Apparently, Nissan hasn’t given up on the Z after all.

While the ultra-expensive sports car market seems to be where the real money is, Klein said it hasn’t abandoned the idea of building another Z-badged automobile entirely. “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 this month’s Detroit auto show.

“The Z is a difficult market,” he continued. “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?”

I’m sure our resident Z fanatic, Chris Tonn, has a few ideas. However, Nissan claims that the popularity of crossovers has shifted consumer interest away from things like “speed, acceleration and cornering.” While that probably doesn’t assure subsequent Z-cars will be high-riding hatchbacks, it also doesn’t mean that’s not a terrifyingly real possibility.

Klein has previously discussed how the GT-R still had “potential” and the Nismo could be “another way to offer excitement to our customers leveraging the more conventional side.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. The GT-R is in an entirely different league and slapping a Nismo badge on normal cars isn’t the same as providing a purpose-built sports car.

Perhaps the next Z would tap into the nostalgia of Generation Xers the same way domestic muscle did for Boomers a decade earlier. Nissan could create a lightweight grand tourer inspired by the 300ZX, keep it practical enough not to be a deal breaker for cash-conscious enthusiasts, and ensure it’s at least competitive from a performance standpoint. It won’t outsell the Nissan Rogue but, surely, there has to be enough wistful adults in Japan and North America to make it worth the automaker’s time.

It’s not too late to pitch ideas like this at Nissan either. Based on Klein’s statements, whatever Nissan is working on is probably still in the very earliest stages of development. It hasn’t figured out how to approach this Z-related problem and may be looking to the enthusiast community to help it make the right decisions.

“The passion is there,” Klein said. “The question is how can we refresh it and what will be the breakthrough for the long term?”

[Image: Nissan]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 46 comments
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
Next