Nissan may cancel next-generation GT-R

Nissan GT-R profile viewThe Nissan GT-R isn’t called “Godzilla” for nothing. Launched in 2008, it went around the Nurburgring faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo, yet it costs about half as much as the Porsche. Despite weighing 3,900 pounds, 2012 models can do 0 to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, and reach a top speed of 191 mph. Nonetheless, Nissan might stop building the GT-R.

According to Inside Line, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has not approved the next GT-R for production. The current car was launched four years ago, so it is about time for Nissan to start thinking about a replacement.

The current GT-R, code named R35, got some minor tweaks for 2012 to keep it competitive. Development work on its replacement, the R36, hasn’t even started. The R35’s chief engineer, Kazutoshi Mizuno, recently retired.

Ghosn approved the GT-R back in 2008, but only after being assured that it would be profitable. Since then, only 5,914 GT-Rs have been sold, costing around $80,000 a copy. Only 583 GT-Rs have been sold this year.

The GT-R also doesn’t fit Nissan’s new, greener image. There is speculation that the company wants the Leaf to be its new poster child, not the GT-R. Indeed, Nissan has been talking about downsizing its 370Z sports car, and is building a “Mini Z” based on the Juke.

However, Nissan has always had a diverse lineup of vehicles. It may build the Leaf, but it also builds the gas-guzzling Titan pickup and the oddball Cube.

The GT-R name has also been around much longer than the current R35 model. It may have only come to the U.S. in 2008, but the GT-R has been Nissan’s performance standard-bearer since the 1960s. The name was applied to special versions of the Skyline before the bespoke R35 was introduced.

If Nissan stopped making the GT-R, it wouldn’t just be throwing away a great performance car, it would be throwing away a chunk of its heritage. Chevy makes the Volt, but that does not mean it stopped making the Corvette.

Dropping the GT-R now would also be an exercise in poor timing. Nissan has been the lone Japanese company with a high performance car for years, but that is changing. Lexus has the LFA, and parent company Toyota is developing a sports car with BMW. Honda is set to relaunch its NSX (aka Acura NSX) supercar, with a hybrid powertrain. Does Nissan really want to be the odd man out?

The GT-R is a car that does more for a company’s reputation than its bottom line. Hopefully Nissan will realize that before it makes any decisions regarding the car’s future.

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