October 24, 2007 / 10:53 AM / 11 years ago

AUTOSHOW-Nissan hopes GT-R sports car will boost sales

CHIBA, Japan, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) on Wednesday took the wraps off its GT-R sports car, a cult classic in Japan that it has remodelled in the hope that a muscle car will rebuild its flagging sales around the world.

Attracting by far the biggest crowd to its news conference at the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn confirmed much of the information that had leaked out on automotive Web sites, including the all-new 3.8-litre twin turbo V6 engine that will power the 480-horsepower machine.

Nissan, Japan’s third-biggest automaker held 44 percent by Renault SA (RENA.PA), is counting on the sports car to polish its brand image and drive global sales of its mass-volume models, which have trailed those of domestic rivals Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T).

“This car is going to do a lot of good for Nissan,” Ghosn told a group interview on the sidelines of the auto show, saying he expected the car to increase showroom traffic.

Three months’ worth of production — or 3,000 vehicles — had already been sold through pre-orders in Japan, he said, and “massive” orders were also flowing in from customers in Qatar.

“I’m not worried at all about sales,” he said.

The car, priced at 7.8 million yen ($68,150) in Japan, will be sold outside the home market for the first time, hitting showrooms in the United States next June and other markets by March 2009. It debuts in Japan on Dec. 6, with a monthly sales target of 200.

To support the GT-R, Nissan has established what it calls “Nissan High Performance Centers”, where advisers and technicians have received training to service the car.

The GT-R — previous versions of which were called Skyline GT-R — will be Nissan’s second-most expensive in its product line-up after the President saloon. The latest special edition version launched in 2002 started at 6.1 million yen ($53,190).

The car, already test-driven by some motor journalists, has received rave reviews.

“Plain and simple, the GT-R will solidify Nissan’s reputation as a company that puts top-notch performance in the hands of every man,” said Brian Moody, road test editor at Edmunds.com. He noted that its sticker price made it affordable relative to comparable Italian models or a Porsche 911, which goes for $122,000.

“Most certainly, the GT-R will help sell other Nissans — especially cars that already offer a performance advantage over their rivals,” he added, listing the Z, Altima and the Infiniti G35/37 as examples.

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