After a decade on the sidelines, Nissan Motor Co. has returned to international racing in a bid to boost brand awareness.
The automaker, racing in the International Le Mans Cup series under the name Signatech Nissan, finished second March 19 at its debut outing at the Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Florida. The program's French driving team had its car for only six weeks.
"This has been a fairly recent decision," says Colin Price, a Nissan North America spokesman. "We're getting back to our heritage in racing."
He said returning to the tracks is aimed at re-establishing Nissan's identity with speed and sportiness.
"It's a brand-building program," he said. "It will have a spillover into our brand awareness. We've already gotten feedback from consumers who tell us they're glad we're getting back into it." The effort is led by Nissan's Nismo performance and motorsports division.
Nissan left international motorsports when CEO Carlos Ghosn took over in 1999 and began slashing costs to head off bankruptcy. More recently, the automaker has become active again, participating until now in some regional racing events in Japan and Europe.
Nissan is stepping up its racing involvement in several series this year, including running GT-Rs in the World Challenge Series, and Titan and Frontier pickups in the off-road Traxxas TORC Series.
On the more upscale Le Mans Prototype stage, Signatech Nissan is preparing to compete in France's 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, an event dominated by high-end European brands.
(Source: Automotive News)