Hey, Nissan, Where Are the Cool Cars You Promised?
Over the past year, Nissan has suffered three major blows to its performance-pushing as three key figures left the company. This has resulted in an apparent stall in the talk about performance-oriented vehicles from the Nissan and Infiniti brands.
Just a few months ago, there was still hope that the new 370Z would be a fast-paced IDx revival as a possible last-ditch hope that we would still see the IDx go to production. Now it doesn't seem likely as talk about the 370Z, which has been barely a whisper, is that its biggest change will be a swap to a smaller-displacement engine with turbochargers. The IDx has all but disappeared from Nissan marketing and talk.
This year, at the Detroit auto show (NAIAS), the IDx and Infiniti Eau Rouge were not on display at all. Our best guess for what's going to be showcased at the upcoming Chicago Auto Show doesn't include either of these vehicles or anything like them, but instead a refresh of the Nissan Altima sedan. Anyone remember the Blade Glider idea? That doesn't seem to be anywhere on Nissan's radar anymore either.
Over the last year, performance enthusiasts in high-profile positions at Nissan/Infiniti have dwindled. Andy Palmer, former pusher of Nissan motorsport and a big mouthpiece for the Q50 Eau Rouge concept, has left to head up Aston Martin. Not long after that, Johan de Nysschen, president of Infiniti, and also a vocal advocate for the Eau Rouge, walked out the door to take the helm at Cadillac. The replacements for these two key figures have said little to nothing about motorsport and performance vehicles. At Detroit, the new Infiniti head, who at that point had been in charge for barely a week, said little outside of his prepared speech.
Finally, the four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel, who was the spearhead for the Infiniti Red Bull team and a vocal advocate for and key influencer of the Eau Rouge, left the team to drive for Ferrari. Admittedly, that is the dream job of just about every F1 driver at some point, so it's tough to blame the guy for snatching the opportunity.
With all of this shedding of performance-loving talent at Nissan, it's tough to see how the beautiful, but niche Q50 Eau Rouge or throwback IDx could be built. Let alone the highly radical Blade Glider. Others in the industry, including Automotive News seem to agree. Nissan's new focus is on core, everyday products and building bread-and-butter sales.