Is the tide turning at Nissan?

The new Z may be hogging the limelight at the moment (who doesn’t like a sports car?), but one other recent piece of news from Nissan which bore greater significance than the 400hp coupe was almost overlooked – the Yokohama-based manufacturer has quietly slipped back into the black.

After two years of grim losses (FY2019 and FY2020), consolidation, job cuts and bad press associated with its former CEO and chairman (who escaped house arrest in late 2019 in dramatic fashion), Nissan appears to have turned things around after declaring a profit in the first quarter (April to June) of its fiscal year 2021, well ahead of estimates.

After two years of losses, the return to profitability at Nissan is testament to the steady stewardship of CEO Uchida (centre).

Granted that global automotive sales have rebounded strongly across the board for major manufacturers since the Covid pandemic blighted retail sales last year, the quarterly operating profit of 75.7 billion Yen (approximately USD$ 690 million on an operating margin of 3.8%) – driven by the recovery in the US and China markets – was still surprising given that Nissan had originally forecasted a deficit till the end of fiscal year 2021, which has now been revised.

‘Restoring Nissan-ness’ is one of the strategic goals of Nissan’s transformation plan.
Recovery has come early

While it’s only a year into the transformation plan unveiled by CEO Makoto Uchida last May, the trimming of the model range and production capacity, along with emphasis on profitable growth instead of the pursuit for global market share has seemingly allowed Nissan to focus on churning out cars that consumers genuinely want to own, not just because they are cheaper to buy or offered more space.

Nissan cars are looking sharp again thanks to design chief Alfonso Albaisa and the team he leads.

A lot of this has to do with how attractive new Nissans are beginning to look, from the modest Almera (Versa or Sunny elsewhere) to the futuristic Ariya all-electric SUV, and of course, to the new Z coupe that has fans chomping at the bit. Led by design chief Alfonso Albaisa, the new crop of Nissan cars now bears distinctive expressions that appear unrestrained by the penny-pinching culture of old.

Which is why a car like the Z coupe matters to Nissan going forward, not necessarily from a profitability point of view but because the brand needs to step out from the shadow of mediocrity which permeated many products of the Ghosn era. For the fans who have been crying out for something inspiring and within the realm of affordability (not wildly expensive iterations of the GT-R), the new Z is the answer.

The new Z coupe revealed in production form; expected to hit Nissan showrooms in the US by the middle of next year.
New Z – the right car at the right time

Yes, the two-seater rear-wheel drive coupe isn’t new from ground up, but the fact that Nissan committed to the remake when resources are tight is proof that it seeks to reconnect with enthusiasts. Mind you, the drivetrain is ‘new’ for a Nissan with the 400hp/475Nm twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine being lifted from the Infiniti Q50/Q60 and it would either be mated to a six-speed manual (which was also offered the 370Z) or a nine-speed automatic, which is likely to be a Jatco unit.

No official performance numbers were shared during its American premiere in production trim but expect a 0-100km/h performance in the sub 5 seconds category. The kicker though is the estimated price of ‘around $40K’ for the base Sport variant (may have a slightly detuned output) which easily undercuts a base GR Supra 3.0-litre that starts at US$52,000, and Toyota doesn’t offer a manual option either. Ah, maybe life after Ghosn isn’t so bad after all.