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Nissan gets it together

The next Z will be ready for the road in less than two years as Nissan works flat out on a replacement for the luxury Maxima, an updated Micra baby and perhaps a Silvia sports coupe.

The Tiida, which has struggled in Australia, will also be given more pizzazz and space.

“The new zee is coming soon,” Nissan Motor Company chief designer Shiro Nakamura says at the Tokyo Motor Show. He will not be drawn on the replacement for the 350Z, but says it is a reflection of the positioning of the company following its near-death experience before Carlos Ghosn joined as CEO in Japan.

“Our Nissan brand, we want to be very active. To provide a passion for driving,” Nakamura says.

What about the timing of the 350Z? He hints it will debut in 2008, but will not confirm anything for the Detroit Show in January or the Chicago or New York shows later in the year. “We didn't want to show the Z and GT-R together. Next Detroit Show? Probably not,” he says.

“At the earliest we can show it next year.”

Nakamura is vague on the timing of other newcomers, but happy to discuss design directions. “Micra has to be a global car. We have to cover more,” he says.

“The current one is almost totally European and Japanese. The next one has to do much wider."

“And we don't want to go conservative.”

He says the latest X-Trail and Qashqai (likely to be named the Dualis in Australia) work well and intends to put more funk into the Tiida.

“Clearly, we have to improve. Tiida is not very well fitted in the segment,” he says.

“We don't have any history of Tiida in Australia. It could be a little bit more substantial. Youthful. Not necessarily bigger, but with more presence."

“We are looking at the critical path of that segment, as cars are getting more extroverted. Not just a practical hatchback.”

What about a sporty coupe, such as the Silvia? “We would like to have a car below the Z,” Nakamura says. “Many people ask if we will bring Silvia back. We are studying what we should do."

“A 3.5 litre V6 (in the 350Z) is too big in some markets. I prefer rear-wheel-drive. We have to do it quickly. We cannot wait too long. We are working very hard to make it happen.”