“When we look at the U.S. market and what our competitors are doing there, I think there is a possibility [for Nismo] in the crossover and truck segments going forward,” Katagiri said at the unveiling this month of the Note Aura Nismo, a “Formula-E-inspired” revamp of the pedestrian Note Aura.
The Note Aura Nismo, which goes on sale this fall, adds to a domestic Nismo lineup that is made up of versions of the GT-R, Fairlady Z, Leaf electric vehicle and March compact.
In the U.S., by contrast, Nissan sells only the GT-R Nismo, having sold out of the 370Z Nismo ahead of the full redesign landing next spring. It’s a good bet that the next-gen Z will also get a Nismo treatment.
Nismo has made halting headway on its ambition to become a global heavyweight performance subbrand compared with the recognition of such rivals as Mercedes’ AMG, Subaru’s STI or Hyundai’s N lines.
In 2017, Katagiri announced plans to double the number of Nissan nameplates that get the Nismo treatment and to deliver a near sevenfold increase in sales in five years. The lofty goal was to lift global Nismo deliveries to 100,000 vehicles in the early 2020s, from some 15,000 in 2016.
Nissan now declines to even give sales figures for Nismo.
In the U.S., Nissan has experimented with Nismo versions of the Juke subcompact crossover and the Sentra sedan. And this spring, in the Middle East, Nissan launched the Patrol Nismo SUV. That package could foreshadow how Nissan handles future light trucks for the U.S.
But any meaningful North American expansion of Nismo could be some time coming. Katagiri didn’t offer a timeline but said racing and marketing activities will fill the gap in the meantime.
“Nismo is a global brand. But when it comes to its actual business, Nismo heavily relies on Japan at the moment,” Katagiri said. “In overseas markets, the U.S. and Europe included, the so-called globalization of Nismo is something we are going to do from now on.”
Naoto Okamura contributed to this report.