Wednesday, October 5, 2016

8 Questions with Hiroshi Tamura: The Man Behind the Nissan GT-R

We sit down with the man behind the Nissan GT-R and find out about what influenced him, what he thinks of manual transmission supercars, and more.

CG: What’s behind the lasting appeal of the Nissan GT-R?

Tamura: That’s a good question. Although most people remember the GT-R from the R32 (produced from 1989 to 1994) onward, my generation cannot forget the very first GT-R: the Hakosuka [literally translated from Hako meaning ‘box’ and Suka, an abbreviation of ‘sukairain’ or skyline]. That’s the very first GT-R that came out in 1969. As a young kid, I remember being mesmerized by it. It inspired me that one day: I will also make my own GT-R. I think every kid who sees the GT-R will have this reaction. I myself eventually became an owner of a R32 GT-R which I tuned. When I became the Chief Product Specialist of the R34 (produced 1999 to 2002), I happen to incorporate all of knowledge in tuning my own car into it.

CG: Moving to the current R35 model, what sort of work was done with the 2017 Nissan GT-R?

Tamura: I would call it “total balance management”. The GT-R has always existed in what I call the ‘excitement’ or ‘emotional’ zone, but remember that two of three letters in the name means “Grand Turismo”, so we had to work to improve the ride and active safety as well. We had to work to improve the entire drive system to make the GT-R not just good in one thing such as racing, but good in various conditions such as long-distance driving as well.

CG: When the Nissan GT-R Concept first came out at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2001, it had two pedals instead of three. At the time, it was considered controversial. Do you think sports car in the future would only have automatic gearboxes?

Tamura: Yes, we installed two pedals for the concept vehicle and it was done at the time when people believed that sports cars must have three pedals. But we believed that anything north of 500 horsepower presents a tremendous challenge in handling concentration. We believe that the driver must be more concentrated in steering. Of course, if you happen to be changing gears all the time, both hands cannot be on the wheel at the same time. Also, by having the car do the shifting for you, you can actually save more time every time you shift up or down.

CG: The current Nissan GT-R is almost a decade old now and yet, it still has the performance to beat even newer cars out there. Do you think you have designed a future-proof sports car?

Tamura: Though I cannot comment where the GT-R is headed to in the future, for the current 2017 GT-R, we’ve never really stressed on benchmarking or referencing other vehicles. For sure, we have checked out the competition, but we’ve sought more to look at Nissan’s own spirit or philosophy. The GT-R has always provided a solution, a driving environment that’s in line with Nissan’s DNA. As such, we have considered this car to be standalone. In other words, the GT-R’s biggest competition is the GT-R itself.

CG: Lately, there’s been a renaissance with Japanese sports cars. Do you think the Nissan GT-R played a role in this?

Tamura: That point has crossed my mind, but I didn’t really check. What’s more important is that we look at our history first—that has to be my mind set. Then, I look what sort of customer benefit this car will have, whether it’s confident or emotional driving. People sometimes misread the GT-R simply as a product. In truth, we make the GT-R simply because that’s what our customers want. Also, the various solutions we have come up with or the proposals we have always come from the customer side. The 2017 GT-R is proof that we listen to our customers.

CG: Can you tell us your three favorite features in the 2017 GT-R?

Tamura: That’s a tricky question. If you have a baby, do you want to say you love this baby only for this or that you don’t like a baby just for that? No. I cannot simply select one or even three aspects from the three brothers or sisters [Tamura spearheaded the development of the R33, R34, and R35 GT-Rs]. I love the entire car—the entire GT-R.

CG: Moving forward, there’s an increased tightening in both emissions and safety requirements globally. Do you think there’s still room for the GT-R?

Tamura: Of course! The regulations will always be the challenge and the GT-R will always be challenging those regulations. The goal of the GT-R is to challenge the norm and provide innovative solutions to them. No doubt about it, we will improve on everything including the requirements of the different regulations.

CG: Finally, given the traffic in Metro Manila, do you think the GT-R makes for a great addition to Philippine roads?

Tamura: Why not? It’s a global product seen around the world from the USA to Europe to Japan and even countries like Malaysia and Thailand. As long as there are car guys or enthusiasts out there who share our vision or our passion, then there’s always room for it. The GT-R is a customer-driven car—we have designed it as a type of car that’s accessible just about everywhere.

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