Nissan Z attempts to generate buzz for a damaged brand

Nissan calls the coming product blitz “Nissan A to Z,” with A standing for the new Ariya electric crossover and Z, naturally, for the redesigned sports coupe. Uchida, who took office in December, launched the strategy this year as Nissan braces for its biggest-ever operating loss.

“The Z is our DNA. There is Z in everything we do,” Uchida said in the live-streamed event, which was broadcast to Z car fan clubs around the world. “It’s proof of our ability to do what others don’t dare to do, from A to Z.”

Keeping the Z alive wasn’t always a given. As recently as 2018, Nissan seemed to waver on what direction to go with the storied everyman’s coupe in a modern market where crossovers are king.

“The Z is a difficult market,” former Chief Planning Officer Philippe Klein conceded in an interview at the time. “If we do a complete new vehicle, what should it be to keep the passion alive? And we’re working very seriously on this.”

Today, Nissan executives are convinced they’ve found the answer in the Z Proto. Truth be told, even as Klein seemed uncertain of the Z’s fate, global design chief Alfonso Albaisa already had the green light for a successor to the 370Z that debuted in 2009. Albaisa was approached about it in March 2017.

“I was a bit shocked,” Albaisa said of his excitement at being told to start sketching. “But of course — my God, this is a dream come true.”

The design team sprang into action, requesting proposals from Nissan’s global studio network. The result was the retro-styled Z Proto, a vision for a next-gen Z that could arrive late next year.

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