Nissan Motor Company's chief product specialist, Hiroshi Tamura is a hardcore sports car enthusiast. Of the 32 years he has spent with Nissan, the last 19 have been associated with developing the company's GT-R and Z sports cars. In an exclusive interview with Autocar Professional's Sumantra B Barooah, he talks about the GT-R and its role also as a technology provider to other Nissan cars.
What will be the role for the GT-R in India? Any technology transfer from the GT-R to other Nissan cars?
The GT-R is Nissan's group car. So, sometimes people get closed up only with the GT-R. I don't like it because Nissan GT-R provides so much content to other cars, for example, the Juke, Qashqai, or even the Micra with the traction control system. The Micra's traction system idea came from the GT-R. Of course, the tyres and some specs are different. But the technology philosophy is connected. For instance how to use the tyre as much as possible to the maximum level. This fundamental point came from the technology philosophy of the GT-R.
The Terrano's engine is very different from the GT-R's. But, for example, the engine bore strengthening idea came from the GT-R. This kind of idea, robustness and reliability, and also the philosophical point of view is GT-R technology. Sometimes, the technology flow is slightly opposite. That's why the GT-R is so strong. It is a halo model. We know that. But it is also a source of technology shower to other Nissan cars. People love to talk about the GT-R of Nissan, even this technology is connected to other Nissan cars.
What were the key objectives that you set out to achieve with the 2017 GT-R?
I am always thinking about the key words – driving pleasure. Driving pleasure has many meanings. Like performance, acceleration performance or exhaust note and also some handling benefit or even riding comfort for your long journey like a GT – with your girlfriend or your wife or your important somebody. So, the key objective is the pursuit of the ultimate driving pleasure.
We started using the concept of ultimate driving pleasure since the 1995 GT-R. I challenge the engineers to improve with different solutions. To the designers, I say that all character lines should have some functional benefit, not just fancy drawing. This is the other philosophy. I am a direction player, a concept player. They are the solution players – styling designer and the engineering designer.
What kind of additional benefits have those lines brought in the 2017 GT-R?
Basically, it's a minor change. So, it's an enhancement of the current direction of ultimate driving pleasure, which is for more evolution type but a big evolution. Normally, we don't touch the body-in-white. Usually it’s some headlamp or bumper change. But we still made some changes in the body-in-white for better body rigidity, and even some improvement in quality feeling.
The car's power is also up by 20 extra horsepower and there are some interior changes too. These are the highlights but there in the background there are some customer benefits like lesser vibrations or the more silent and sophisticated atmosphere in cabin. This fundamental point is the strengthening of the body-in-white.
One may say that the heydays of the GT-R, when it earned names like Godzilla or supercar slayer may be over. How do you take that, and how do you plan to take the GT-R again to greater heights?
It is a tough question. Let's say, the GT-R is a standalone word. It's not a snobby explanation, so do not mislead. We didn't say we are Godzilla by ourselves, which means for somebody to say Godzilla maybe okay, but we didn't call it by ourselves. So, from a competition standpoint, what kind of stage we have to manage? Your opinion says Godzilla is a strong name for the GT-R. Thank you very much. But even still, a lot of sports cars are respected. European or American sports cars have their own history and the stage too.
Sometimes, we gather at the same location, like the Nurburgring time attack, some racing field of FIA GT3 regulation. Yes, let's enjoy the race, our driving pleasure DNA and how to keep it. The fundamental point is that all the cars have their own philosophy. Why do I have to see the others? But again, it is not a snobby issue or attitude because we have our own customers of the GT-R level. I have to respect our customers to provide our DNA to keep it. Maybe Porsche and Ferrari are going about this with their customers. We have to keep our distance. I don't want to copy. That's the Nissan philosophy. Nissan has a DNA to keep our own standalone very important customer-driven approach.
What is the one unique DNA that you would like GT-R to stand for, always?
I don't have anything unique. But what’s important is that I am sticking to pursuit of driving pleasure – ultimate driving pleasure. Then, it’s easy to use driving pleasure. Every sports car manufacturer is keen on that. But on the other hand everybody is keen to reach the ultimate level, right? Maybe Porsche is doing about its own philosophy of driving pleasure as are Ferrari, Aston Martin and maybe Corvette and AMG too.
On the other hand, what do you think is unique in the sports car scene? What do you think is the benefit of a sports car? Is that standalone, is that unique? Everybody loves to talk about performance, acceleration, time attack in some circuit. It's a stereotype. Everybody is the same. That's why we cannot ignore the fundamental customer-driven type of approach. The customer is talking about such a kind of emotional scene that we have to answer.
Nissan was also reportedly accused of cheating by Porsche when it set record lap time in the Nurburgring circuit. Do you recall that? It's an extremely competitive field outh there.
Let's say, time attack is one of the stages (for a supercar). What kind of time attack car we were using, or they were using, I don't care. Porsche didn't say anything when I attacked in 2013. Before that I don't know. Because, in September 2013, we did more evidence type of checking with recording, because just announcing some lap time (may not be good enough) . We recorded the whole test.
How would you like to raise the bar with the next GT-R?
I can guarantee you, if I keep my job I would to install the same philosophy. It's not boring because of the eternal theme pursuit of the driving pleasure is one of the important directions for Nissan, because Nissan wants to provide for you, for the customer, our DNA, for example, by GT-R.
The solution name I don't know, because people like to talk about what is next – hybrid, electric, next is something. We have to choose as much as possible to meet the generation of the solution name.
We have to find ways to excite a 10-year old (like I was excited) with Nissan. This is my heart. It was a simple message, when as a kid, Nissan hit me. So, now it's my turn to give them some philosophical story by GT-R or some emotional work. We old guys enjoyed for long. But now I have to provide for the kids.
Everybody loves to compete in some stage, like a quarter-mile or a high-speed trial or a ring circuit. Customers talks about how the GT-R is interesting handling, or interesting for some affordability for a supercar zone to access. So, accessibility is a very important keyword. It does not sport a supercar price tag. This is one of the important messages from us.
At some point, can we expect a hot hatch with the GT-R's character?
It depends on the customer's voice. We are not a company that pushes products. Of course, the GT-R looks like a product. Still, we have to listen and be careful of the customer's voice.
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