IT MAY have escaped your attention, but October next year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Nissan’s ground-breaking 240Z. It also happens to be the date of the Tokyo Motor Show, so it would be entirely understandable were Nissan to celebrate that fact.
But rather than launch a special edition 370Z to commemorate the event, Nissan may well have something more spectacular to stop the show with: an all-new Z-car prototype. During an interview with Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s Senior Vice President for Global Design, we learned that planning for the next-gen Z is already under way. Rumours have swirled to that effect, but it’s now on record from a senior Nissan source.
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“The Z-car, oh my god. Huge pressure,” said Albaisa when reviewing the to-do list of Nissan design work. “You can imagine I’m completely excited that I am in the position to work on that.”
It couldn’t be in much safer hands. Albaisa, a 31-year veteran of Nissan, has some pedigree, having developed a series of stunning Nissan and Infiniti show cars, acting as the high-level guide to future design direction. When Shiro Nakamura stepped down as Nissan’s design boss last year, having overseen the design of 350Z and 370Z, the appointment of Albaisa, an unapologetic aesthete, met with universal acclaim.
His 1940s-themed Prototype 9 proved the showstopper at last year’s Pebble Beach, an electric car inspired by the Howard Hughes’ H1 record-breaking aircraft. That was followed by the beautiful Infiniti Q Inspiration with its voluptuous sweep of glass running from bonnet to boot.
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Success with the next-gen Z-car would cement Albaisa’s reputation in the top job. He’s fully appreciative of the weight of expectation. “Democratisation of the sports car, the 240Z, unforgettable,” he says. “Even in the modern day … the 300ZX of 1989, this Japanese simplicity was impressive.”
It’s been a decade since we first saw the 370Z at the 2008 Los Angeles show, and the car now feels long in the tooth. Ten years after the 240Z appeared, we’d cycled through 260Z and were into the 280ZX era.
It’s time for a new generation and Alfonso Albaisa has the management experience to effectively drive that project through Nissan’s multiple levels of bureaucracy. He might be feeling the pressure, but he’s odds-on to deliver. Start the countdown to Tokyo, 25th October 2019.