It’s been more than a decade since a new Nissan Z debuted, and although the newest iteration has been delayed a couple months, TheDetroitBureau.com had the chance to sit down and talk with Hiroshi Tamura, the product planner charged with overseeing development of the new Z. Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
The Detroit Bureau: What was the first sports car that really set your heart aflame, that really spoke to you.
Hiroshi Tamura: That would be a Nissan Skyline. I bought it when I was 18 years old. The Japanese license system starts from 18 years old, not your country’s 16 years old. So, that was the first car that had a big impact for me. And it’s a slow engine, just a 2.0-liter and a 110 horsepower. But I tuned it and increased the displacement, and added triple carburetors. I learned from this inline 6 Skyline engine, which is not a dual-camshaft type of fancy engine like a GTO.
TDB: You’ve mentioned that you thought it was important to maintain the Z’s balance, so that it didn’t come off like a miniature GTR. That way, one could be one, and the other could be the other.
HT: Yes and the Z must be stylish; I want to chase that. But a GTR is a stronger energy, human technology with some black sheep attitude and even some childish behavior. When I was 10 years old, I saw a Skyline GTR at the Fuji Speedway. That was an original racing field contact touch point.
TDB: What was the most important key change that you made on the new vehicle?
HT: Actually, it’s total balance. I cannot select one single component, but as I said, some connection with your body, like a dance partner with some appropriate GT attitude, which may have some ride comfort balance for daily use. We have to keep that. Then, in this case, first of all, we understand the body has a hatchback, and that’s not so good for this kind of body rigidity and we had to protect this one single direction, like good handling with good riding comfort. Then, we add on the weight. Of course sometimes, we don’t want to have a weight penalty, but I’m sure this one will have the best balance. Of course we are going to add extra horsepower and torque and it should work, I believe.
TDB: So we might see some more horsepower coming out of this yet?
HT: My point is why not? Because the customer has the expectation, or could customize it for more power at a lower price.
TDB: The new Z’s price point is very strong.
HT: Thank you. Someday there will be more of the performance side. I’m sure we have to do that; it’s my idea. But the company’s judgment still has not been decided yet. It’s not so easy.
TDB: I imagine you have to see how well this model sells before any additional investment goes into it.
HT: Right. At the beginning, if the reaction for this car from the market, or a journalist writes nice things in the paper or media, then I will say let’s go to more performance. On the other hand, if sales aren’t so good, or it’s not a good reaction, our job is finished.
TDB: As you’re developing it, one of the challenges must have been the price point.
HT: One challenge point is how can I make as much stimulation as possible with affordability. I need a stimulation for the Z; that’s “Z-ness.” That balance is very tough. But again, how to create for some old-fashioned name into the newer moderness. That’s very important for the final stage for the dinosaur of a combustion chamber society.
TDB: Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see the change of technology and what a higher performance Z might be because it’s not necessarily just an internal combustion engine.
HT: Yesterday we talked about how we can provide for the next generation. It’s a culture continuing. We have to pay it forward. If the country says, “no more combustion engines.” Okay, let’s go to the new technology. But if your country said, “oh, it’s still okay, why not provide a car for this?” Fine. That’s why I made the car. Are you really, really sure the old guy has a love for an electronic sports car right now? The customer’s voice is most important for me. Sorry, it’s not executive voices. That’s my bad style for this organization. “He’s a very crazy Japanese and he doesn’t respect the organization. He doesn’t respect the boss or something.”
TDB: The person buying the car is the ultimate boss.
HT: My boss is the customer.
TDB: Yeah. So if they’re saying internal combustion, it’s internal combustion.
HT: That’s very important for me, but I don’t know the next step, meaning after this Z. I’m not talking about for some special edition, but full model change timing. I already should be retired from my business.
TDB: That is a perfect point to stop on this interview. Thank you.
HT: Thank you, you are very welcome.