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Modern Datsun 1600 nears production decision

2013 Nissan IDx Nismo concept
Joshua Dowling
CarsGuide

28 Jul 2014 • 4 min read

The on-again, off-again Datsun 1600 is back on! We think.

The rebirth of the Datsun 1600 looked like it was over before it began, barely months after the covers came off the Nissan IDX concept car at last year’s Tokyo motor show.
 
But an interview with a senior Nissan product planner has helped explain the battle behind closed doors to get the modern icon approved for production.
 
Nissan product planner Keno Kato, speaking at the launch of the new Navara ute in Thailand overnight, told Australian media the Nissan IDx has not been canned, and that it still has a “50:50” chance of going into production.
 
“It is 50:50 until we pass some milestones and decide to press ‘go’,” said Kato-san.
 
He said global Nissan boss Andy Palmer and most of the product planning team wanted the IDx to go into production, but there was resistance at other levels in the company from executives who were concerned it would not sell in sufficient numbers to be profitable.
 
“The car must be affordable,” said Kato-san, referring to the popularity of the Toyota 86 coupe, which has been a runaway success globally and in Australia, the third-biggest market behind the USA and Japan thanks to its super-sharp starting price of $29,990.

  • 2013 Nissan IDx Nismo and Freeflow concepts 2013 Nissan IDx Nismo and Freeflow concepts
  • The IDx Nismo and IDx Freeflow got our award for the most magnetic exhibit at the 43rd annual Tokyo motor show, a pair of cars that drew people like bees to honey -- proof positive that the design experiment was worthwhile. The IDx Nismo and IDx Freeflow got our award for the most magnetic exhibit at the 43rd annual Tokyo motor show, a pair of cars that drew people like bees to honey -- proof positive that the design experiment was worthwhile.
  • Perhaps it's because these particular cars weren't just the work of designers, but were produced with input from the public, especially young people with whom the company is trying to reconnect - the Gen Ys or digital natives or whatever the bloody hell you call them. Perhaps it's because these particular cars weren't just the work of designers, but were produced with input from the public, especially young people with whom the company is trying to reconnect - the Gen Ys or digital natives or whatever the bloody hell you call them.
  • Nissan has decided to try something different, or we might suggest to get back to basics and build the kind of cars that people aspire to buy - good looking things that fill an emotional need not just a practical one. Nissan has decided to try something different, or we might suggest to get back to basics and build the kind of cars that people aspire to buy - good looking things that fill an emotional need not just a practical one.
  • The IDx Nismo and Freeflow, are two models cast from the same mold, designed to meet the needs of younger customers in a process that Nissan describes as co-creation. The IDx Nismo and Freeflow, are two models cast from the same mold, designed to meet the needs of younger customers in a process that Nissan describes as co-creation.
  • In effect cars designed by young people for young people. In effect cars designed by young people for young people.
  • The name IDx is taken from the acronym for "identification" while the "x" part represents new values and dreams born through communication. The name IDx is taken from the acronym for "identification" while the "x" part represents new values and dreams born through communication.
  • Nissan says engaging with members of the digital generation in the design process created an opportunity to learn a slew of new insights and creative possibilities. Nissan says engaging with members of the digital generation in the design process created an opportunity to learn a slew of new insights and creative possibilities.
  • It says the co-creation dialogue reached far and wide, from the basic framework right through to the finishing touches. It says the co-creation dialogue reached far and wide, from the basic framework right through to the finishing touches.
  • Two versions of the car were created, one relaxed and casual, the other more overt and aggressive - because they are the result of two different conversations with two separate co-creation communities. Two versions of the car were created, one relaxed and casual, the other more overt and aggressive - because they are the result of two different conversations with two separate co-creation communities.
  • What Nissan said it derived from this communication was a desire for a basic, authentic configuration. What Nissan said it derived from this communication was a desire for a basic, authentic configuration.
  • That is, a car without influences, based on the ideal proportions and straight stance of a timeless three-box design. That is, a car without influences, based on the ideal proportions and straight stance of a timeless three-box design.
  • Both the interior and exterior share the same simple design strategy, with just the right number of functions and accessories to give the cars a sense of solid reliability. Both the interior and exterior share the same simple design strategy, with just the right number of functions and accessories to give the cars a sense of solid reliability.
  • Nissan has not confirmed the IDx will go into production but if early reaction to the car at the show is a guide, the Japanese company will be buoyed by the positive response. Nissan has not confirmed the IDx will go into production but if early reaction to the car at the show is a guide, the Japanese company will be buoyed by the positive response.
  • Here’s hoping the modern Datsun 1600 gets a green light faster than the Nissan GT-R did. Here’s hoping the modern Datsun 1600 gets a green light faster than the Nissan GT-R did.
  • Nissan showed the concept GT-R in 2001 but the production version wasn’t released until late 2007. Nissan showed the concept GT-R in 2001 but the production version wasn’t released until late 2007.


 
When asked if the production version of the IDx would be powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine (as the concept car was), Kato-san repeated “it must be affordable … simplicity is key”.
 
When asked if Nissan had built early prototypes, even as test mules, Kato-san said: “I cannot disclose, sorry.”
 
We’re taking that to mean a ‘yes’, because if it was a ‘no’ Kato-san would simply have said ‘no’.
 
Still, Nissan fans will have to wait a little longer before we know for sure if the car will go ahead.
 
When asked if the decision would come this year, Kato-san said: “sorry, I cannot say”.
 
Other reports out of Nissan claim the IDx -- if approved -- would not be in showrooms until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest, which would put it in direct competition with the likely arrival timing of the second-generation Toyota 86.
 
A pair of Nissan IDx concept cars was unveiled at the Tokyo motor show last November.

At the Detroit motor show in January the global boss of Nissan, Andy Palmer, said the Nissan IDx was part of the company’s “five-year plan”, but stopped short of saying the project had been given the green light.
 
Six months later Mr Palmer appeared to be backtracking even further, telling US website Wards Auto earlier this month:
 
“Will (the IDx) become something or not is debated, but certainly not (by 2016),” Mr Palmer told Wards Auto.

“It’s not easy to do, (and) if you do something like this and you manage to do a vehicle at (a low) price, what else would you do on this platform? Because frankly to do a platform for 50,000 or 60,000 (units) a year — it’s not worth it.”
 
The IDx Nismo concept took centre stage on the Nissan stand at last year’s Tokyo motor show -- upstaging the updated GT-R -- with two models: a retro-themed lime green standard car and a sports model with hints of rally versions of early Datsun 1600s.
 
The concept car was powered by a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels. Company insiders said it could fill the void left by the exit of the Nissan 200SX and be a cheaper alternative to the Nissan 370Z.
 
Nissan said many of the designers of the IDx were people who “grew up playing racing simulation games” and fell in love with the iconic Datsun 1600.
 
Indeed, many of the designers weren’t even born when the original Datsun 1600 hit the streets.
 
The original Datsun 1600 was a favourite among professional and amateur rally drivers alike in the 1970s because of its nimble frame, powerful engine and rear-drive chassis.
 
Nissan has a reputation for teasing fans with concept cars and then taking years to put them into production.
 
Here’s hoping the modern Datsun 1600 gets a green light faster than the Nissan GT-R did. Nissan showed the concept GT-R in 2001 but the production version wasn’t released until late 2007.

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