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Global Marketing

Hero to Zero: Nissan GT-R

A combination of bad marketing and the “overpromise-and-underdeliver” strategy leads to the car's uncertain future.

LA 2007: U.S.-spec Nissan GT-R huge performance bargain at $69,850 |  Autoblog
Ex CEO Carlos Ghosn unveils the Nissan GT-R back in 2007.

In the automotive world, carmakers will always have a flagship model in their lineup, and in Nissan's case, its the GT-R. The brand has been around for 50 years, and in the 80's and 90's, it has dominated the motorsports scene so much so it was christened “Godzilla”. However, the brand went in a hiatus in the early 2000's, but Nissan planned to revive the iconic brand under Ghosn's leadership by heavily utilizing their global market strategy such as showing off their concept car and building the hype thru short video teasers leading to the car's unveil in 2007.

From Zero to Hero to Zero

Nissan shocked the world where in 2007, where shortly after its unveil, it beat the Porsche 911 Turbo's time on the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife by more than a second. The said circuit is a big deal for automakers because it is at least 20 kilometers long with tons of twisting turns and blind corners. It is basically a benchmark proving grounds circuit for automakers to develop and test the capabilities of their cars. Beating the 911 Turbo is also a big deal in the automotive world because the 911 is hailed by car enthusiasts, journalists, and critics as the benchmark of performance cars. The car then went on to receive multiple awards over the years while Nissan made some tweaks and refinements on every model year to keep the car competitive with other carmakers. With every each model year, Nissan made some minor tweaks under the hood to continue the refinement of its flagship car. Complimenting with that, it even released the lap-times on the famous Nurburgring Nordschleife on subsequent model years, showing a testament on hoe much the car has been improved compared to the previous model year. This is a great marketing strategy by Nissan, because by releasing lap-times on the famed circuit, it can convince people to buy the GT-R as a Porsche, Lamborghini, or a Ferrari alternative with the same performance level albeit at a much lower price point.

However, things came crashing down for Nissan in the mid 2010's, where there's a controversy surrounding the ultimate version of the GT-R, called the Nismo GT-R regarding the Nurburgring lap time. Although the car made an impressive lap time of 7 minutes and 8 seconds, the development team behind the cars later confessed that the car uses parts and has adjustments which were different than the consumer's cars. As a result, the car was not deemed street legal by the officials. Furthermore, this controversy damaged Nissan's reputation as a whole, especially one of the company's philosophy regarding its flagship car was “to deliver the same performance and specification to its customers as the car that did the time attack”. This is one of the examples of how to not promote a flagship car at all.

Nissan's terrible global marketing strategy also played a role in the GT-R's downfall. Over the years, there were some campaigns that did not go well for Nissan, and here's some of them:

Nissan | Nissan gt, Nissan, Porsche 911 turbo
Although the car was a game changer back in 2007 and was indeed faster than the 911 Turbo around the ‘Ring, times have changed, as not only Porsche but other carmakers caught up and surpassed the GT-R.

One of the campaigns commissioned by Nissan reads “The Germans Came Off Wurst”, something only Nissan's marketing department can dream of. Car enthusiasts and journalists know that Nissan's motorsport heritage does not come even close to those of Porsches, Audis, Mercedes or BMWs. Furthermore, most owners reported the common problems that the car has, such as brake fade when driving spiritedly for prolonged times, terrible service from the service department, clunky transmission, and not being as reliable as the German counterparts. Simply put, its almost as if the car is designed to look and do good just enough to win a reviewer over and sustain its claimed performance only for a short period of time. In fact, there were some posts on the car forums where some owners complained about quality issues of the GT-R as well as documented it.

http://www.gtrfails.com/

https://forum.lowyat.net/topic/3670029/all

More Lies

Speaking of its claimed performance, the marketing department took the “Overpromise and underdeliver” route. In this case, Nissan claims that the standard GT-R can launch from 0-62 mph in 2.7 and the Nismo version in 2.5 seconds. Unfortunately, none of the reviewers or car magazines who tested the car can achieve such claimed 0-62 times. Most of them never achieve below 3 seconds unless fitted with the right tire and a drag-prepped street surface, whereas journalists and reviewers always achieved lower 0-62 times claimed by Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.

Since 2016, Nissan stopped posting their GT-R Nurburgring lap times, something the company does every year to prove and promote that their flagship car is faster than the pervious years. This made people even more skeptical about the car's performance, and we can infer that either Nissan gave up on innovating or the car is no faster than the pervious model year.

Price-wise, the GT-R is slowly losing its ground due to inflation, as well as not innovating. For instance, the current price of the range topping Nismo version is a stonking $210,000, which costs even more than the current Porsche 911 Turbo S which costs just a little over $200,000. The latter car is much more refined, comfortable, reliable, user-friendly, luxurious, and capable than the former car. Even in car-dealer websites such as Autotrader.com, the market for the GT-R is very saturated as of now since the demand of the car is very low.

Conclusion

As of today, the current GT-R has been in the market for almost 14 years. No other car has been in the market for more than a decade, let alone the flagship ones, whereas most automakers typically update or refresh their cars once in every 4 – 5 years. Ultra low sales figures also translates why enthusiasts prefer other alternatives to the GT-R. Nissan's GT-R has really come a very long way and changed the game, but now, the game has changed them, and their hopes of becoming a Porsche killer is completely gone, forever.

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