Nissan FulviaSilvia

I think I’ve just found the Japanese version of the Lancia Fulvia!!

Spotted via Bring-A-Trailer, this is a Nissan Silvia from 1965. Just 554 of these were hand-made over a four year period. It was powered by a 1.6 litre, inline 4-cylinder engine making just 96hp.

The car is for sale in Japan for around $20,000 (which is reasonable value for a pretty little car, I reckon).

It’s been said that Asian carmakers don’t mind imitating designs by other manufacturers and that’s arguably been the case when these companies are just starting to break into western markets. It’s one less hurdle for a new player to jump over.

So did Nissan pinch a few cues from Lancia’s little Italian coupe from the 1960’s?

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but the similarities are right here for you to see. The twin headlamps and horizontal grille are similar, but punctuated by a sharper point in the middle on the Nissan.

Nissan Silvia 1

LanciaFulviaSeries2

What’s most striking is the roofline and the B-pillar, which are remarkably similar. The rear is quite different.

Nissan Silvia 2

LanciaFulviaRearSide1

The reason I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt?

The Silvia was made from the mid-1960’s. The Series 2 Fulvia, which bears the closest resemblance, arrived about 5 years later. Nissan might have copied the B-pillar design but were ahead on the front end.

Maybe the designers at Lancia copied the Silvia for the Series 2 front end??? :-)

The Australian Car Industry Changed in February 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to March 2013 – the Australian car industry changed and it might just be a real, long term change.

We’ve been living with a high dollar (compared to the US dollar) since 2009. I remember looking at my website revenues around that time with SU and seeing them falling because all the advertising money the site earned was charged in US dollars. The ads that I had control over were changed fairly quickly and the site was better off for it.

Car companies sell their vehicles for high prices in Australia. Some of that has to do with this being a faraway market with associated freight costs. Most of it has to do with Australia being a high-cost country to build cars, with high prices for our locally built vehicles leading the public to accept paying more for every vehicle. When Saab launched the new 9-5 the top-spec Aero model sold for around $50,000 in the United States. It sold for close to $100,000 here.

A few things happened in February, however, which indicate that this situation is starting to change. And if the Aussie dollar stays at such a high value for another few years then that change might just end up being permanent.

The first change came from Fiat and Alfa Romeo. The sibling brands both announced drastic price cuts during February. You’ll now pay nearly $8,000 less for certain models of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, which is now offered for under $30,000 for the first time ever. The Fiat 500 is now offered below $19,000 for the first time ever.

BMW are a little less committed, but they’re moving, too. The company has gone into run-out mode for some soon-to-be-replaced models, but they’ve also announced a whole bunch of added standard equipment for other model ranges. Punters are still going to have to pay what they paid before but BMW can now claim a much more compelling product for the money. On their part, BMW are calling them sales campaigns and limited edition models, but I think that could be simply be some tactical Teutonic talk for more permanent long-term value. Others are doing it and I’m sure BMW will want to remain visible at the progressive end of the market.

February was also the month where Mercedes Benz unveiled their new A-Class here in Australia and much was made of the fact that you can now buy a Mercedes for less than Australia’s staple family car, the Holden Commodore. What’s more, you get more equipment in the Merc than you do in the Commodore. Holden will decry the comparison because the Commodore is a large family car, a completely different class of vehicle to the A-Class. The consumer couldn’t care less. In a market that’s trending away from large family cars into small SUV’s and small hatchbacks, the A-Class is sure to provide a compelling offering to cashed-up youngsters, at-home mothers and all other sorts of buyers. It looks great, it’s reported to drive great, it’s well equipped and it has the cachet of a three-pointed star at the front.

I should mention at this point that the best selling car in the Australian mid-size sedan market in 2012 was the Toyota Camry. The second-best seller wasn’t a Holden, Ford, Hyundai, Mazda or Subaru – it was the Mercedes C-Class.

The final straw for the Australian market as-we-knew-it might just be February sales figures. Here is the Top 10.

Toyota 15,992 (7% up)
Mazda 8728 (0.4% up)
Nissan 8225 (32% up)
Holden 7687 (20% down)
Hyundai 7505 (1% up)
Ford 6590 (5% down)
Volkswagen 4190 (1.4% up)
Honda 3862 (48% up)
Subaru 3104 (3.8% down)

Toyota toppled Holden for sales dominance in Australia 10 years ago and their position at the top of the tree has been a fixture ever since. The rest of the top three has always had at least one of Holden or Ford in there – and often it was both of them. Ford have slipped in recent years and last year it was a HUGE surprise to see Mazda challenge Holden for the #2 position.

These February results – with neither Holden or Ford in the top three – have really thrown the cat amongst the pigeons. Holden claim the result is an anomaly, blaming a computer glitch that stopped dealers from reporting sales. Next month will be the proof.

Two things to note here:

1. This is the first time ever that Nissan has outsold both Holden and Ford in a month. First. Time. Ever.

2. Nissan brought the Pulsar back to Australia in February after a six-year absence for the nameplate. The new Pulsar is spacious for a small car, well equipped, very keenly priced and it’s seen positive reviews. Nissan have also built a good market presence for the Dualis, their small SUV and they’ve also increased their corporate exposure thanks to their entry this year in the V8 SuperCar racing series.

Perhaps their ascension to #3 isn’t a glitch after all.

Australian car buyers are now well aware that we pay a lot for vehicles compared to overseas markets. Car companies are now well aware that they can use their big margins to either cut into price or offer more equipment to make their cars more compelling. The market is finally starting to move and it’s only going to make life harder for the traditional Aussie favourites.

February 2013 could prove to be the month where everything changed in the Australia automotive market – permanently.

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Nissan Pumps Up The Volume On Nismo

This is awesome news. Nismo is about to go from being a small factory racing workshop more connected to fans through video games than real cars, to a global performance badge for Nissan’s sports cars.

I’m not a massive fan of Japanese cars, as you know, but I do have a special affinity for Nissan. I did all my early driving hours, aged 17, in a Datsun 180B. One of my best friends growing up in Melbourne

Datsun Bluebird, or 180B in Australia
Datsun Bluebird, or 180B in Australia
ended up with a Datsun 260Z. Of all the Japanese companies that put down roots in Australia back in the 1960s and 70’s, Nissan was the one with biggest sporting pretensions. Datsun 1600’s are still favoured by those looking to get into rallying and some of sell for big money.

More recently, Nissan have looked to spice things up in Australia by entering the enormously popular V8 Supercar series. This series is like Australia’s version of Nascar, but with corners. It’s been a Ford/Holden series since forever but this year Nissan and a privateer team using Mercedes Benzes will enter the fray. It’ll be the most interesting series in years.

Actually, Nissan has a pretty huge motorsports division.

I give Nissan huge kudos for their work in making themselves one of the interesting companies to come out of Japan. That they’re now going to make Nismo cars available as part of their regular range is a fantastic development for car fans in general. We need more variety and more interest in the automotive scene. It’s nice to see companies coming on board to provide it.

A 370Z Nismo and Juke Nismo will be the first cars offered. There will also be a Nismo GT-R, which is really going to shake things up in the performance car ranks, I think. The GT-R in regular guise made some huge waves a few years ago. This Nismo version is going to be fantastic.

The press release is below……

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Nissan Launches New Era for NISMO

Global Performance Road Car and Motorsport Brand

  • New Global Headquarters in Yokohama heralds new era for Nismo
  • Nismo to create a range of affordable performance Nissan models from small cars to flagship sports cars
  • Juke Nismo is the first, followed by new 370Z Nismo
  • New GT-R Nismo, the ultimate Nissan performance road car, announced
  • Nissan’s global motorsport program to be managed by Nismo

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Feb. 26, 2013) – Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. today kicked off a new era for Nismo, confirming it as Nissan’s exclusive global performance road car and motorsport brand and officially opening the new Nismo global headquarters and development center in Yokohama, Japan.

Nismo is already well-known to motorsports and performance car enthusiasts in Japan and to millions of global gaming enthusiasts. Now, Nismo is poised for accelerated global impact, enhancing Nissan’s reputation for innovation and excitement with a new line-up of sporty Nissan road cars.

In a special ceremony today, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn declared the new headquarters open and explained how Nismo will play a more prominent role for the company’s performance car and motorsport activities.

“Nismo will bring new excitement to the Nissan portfolio with a broader range of affordable and innovative performance models for more markets and more people,” said Mr. 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.”

Not quite pretty - Juke Nismo
Not Quite Pretty – Juke Nismo
The first new Nissan road car to get the Nismo treatment, the Juke Nismo, is already on sale in Europe and Japan and launches in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year.

A new version of the 370Z Nismo for European markets is the next Nismo road car, which made its world debut earlier this month and builds on the platform of Nissan’s most popular and accessible sports car.

Nissan is promising a rapid pace of introduction of even more Nismo models, at least one model every year during the Nissan Power88 period, encompassing the breadth of the Nissan road car range. This will include the flagship of Nissan’s performance and technology, the GT-R.

“It would be unthinkable for us to develop a range of Nismo road cars without including the GT-R,” said Mr. Ghosn. “The standard road car is a global supercar and the GT-R’s performance on track reflects the passion and talents of the Nismo team. The GT-R Nismo will be special and I can’t wait to drive it.”

New home for NISMO

Nissan has invested in an entirely new facility for Nismo’s operations, redeveloping a former production site to give it the resources for expanding beyond motorsport engineering and expert involvement in NISMO road cars Nissan will be developing.

Japanese Candy
Japanese Candy
The new headquarters facility allows the Nismo team to be co-located in one place, bringing together the functional areas for Nismo’s key activities and technical and competition expertise under one roof.

The 180-strong team is now located inside Nissan’s Powertrain Engineering complex. The workshop, engine shop, rooms for fabrication, grinding and carbon composite processes are consolidated into the same floor space along with the parts warehouse. A new larger showroom allows up to eight vehicles to be displayed, while the retail area is now almost twice the size of the previous store in the Omori factory.

“This is a great move for Nismo as we can now shift gears to operate more efficiently and expand the brand globally,” explained Nismo President, Shoichi Miyatani.

“Nismo is a key element in Nissan’s future global road car and motorsports strategy and we will quickly establish it as Nissan’s exclusive performance brand,” added Mr. Miyatani. “This is the first time that all of our team has been located together, and the entire facility will become a hothouse of passion and performance.”

The NISMO spirit

At the heart of each new Nismo road car will be a consistent DNA focused on delivering quality, functionality, and efficiency in every day driving with Nismo’s distinctive styling, sporty handling and dynamic performance capabilities.

Nissan’s new range of Nismo performance road cars will be built on the same production lines as their standard counterparts, which combined with inspiration taken from decades of racing and tuning expertise means that the Nismo brand ensures fully integrated performance enhancements.

Every modification Nismo makes to a road car will be functional and targeted to improve on-road performance and presence.

The spirit of Nismo relies on its proud motorsport heritage and a maverick engineering philosophy. This spirit will be reflected in every new Nismo model with efficient performance, accessible and advanced technology, and bold, smart design, all of which embody Nissan’s philosophy of innovation that excites.

Connecting the virtual with the real

Nismo is known around the world by millions through the virtual world of driving simulation games. In fact, the first opportunity to drive a Nissan Juke Nismo was provided virtually, through the game Asphalt 7: Heat.

Now, at the same time as Nismo is moving from race track to road, it is also moving from the virtual world to the real world as, for the first time in many markets around the world, a range of affordable Nismo-badged cars will be available from Nissan dealers.

“For many would-be Nismo customers, one of the very few occasions to experience a Nismo performance road car has been through a game like Sony Computer Entertainment’s Gran Turismo® series,” said Simon Sproule, Nissan’s corporate vice president for Marketing and Communications. “Now we can bring them into the family of Nissan owners with an exciting, real Nismo car created by a dedicated and experienced team that is fully linked to the digital world and well aware of what these new customers are looking for in a performance road car.”

Performance for the road and track

The spirit and inspiration for Nismo started with a group of maverick Nissan engineers almost fifty years ago. In their efforts to boost car sales through racing success, they shoehorned a powerful engine into an

Original Nismo - Skyline 2000GT
Original Nismo – Skyline 2000GT
ordinary Nissan saloon to create the first of a legendary line of sporty road cars with the Nissan Skyline 2000GT.

What came next was a run of highly successful competition and performance road cars in Japan, culminating in the birth of Nismo itself in 1984.

With the digital generation, Nissan realised the power of the Nismo legend by working with game creators to create both real and virtual stars and expose a whole generation to the potential for tuning and winning in these cars. Last year alone, over 500 million virtual miles were driven in Nissan vehicles on Gran Turismo®5 for PlayStation®3.

Now, as Nismo accelerates to become a global performance car brand specializing in delivering affordable, exciting and innovative performance versions of Nissan cars, the lessons learned from almost half a century of racing can be applied consistently to give drivers a surprising and rewarding ownership experience.

NISMO Expands Role in Motorsport

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.

Nissan V8 SuperCars for Australia
Nissan V8 SuperCars for Australia
“Nissan’s continued commitment to a variety of motorsports programs around the world from the Altima in the Australian V8 Supercars to Super GT in Japan, but we also intend to surprise people by exploring advanced forms of motorsport,” explained Mr. Miyatani. “Our experience a spirit of pushing the boundaries even further helps us to raise awareness of Nismo around the world, but more importantly it means we can transfer the lessons we learn into tangible benefits for our customers, whether for Nismo road cars, race cars or tuning parts.”

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