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Open Letter to Nissan


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#1 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:34 AM

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Since before the GT-R's release, NAGTROC has been very closely involved with the GT-R community. As one of the founders and owners of NAGTROC, my work has brought me in contact with many GT-R owners, potential owners, dealers, racing teams, and aftermarket companies in the US. Lately it's become apparent that GT-R sales have started to decline and that demand for the car has been shifting. While I believe that has a lot to do with the economy, I have ideas for things that Nissan can do that would strongly benefit sales and demand, even in this economic climate. These ideas are focused on managing the market perception of the GT-R as well as opportunities for Nissan to create value for its customers and its dealers/partners. The ideas are predicated on the my belief that the R35 story is still in its early chapters and that as the industry matures, particularly with leadership from Nissan, the true value of the R35 will be recognized. After having worked on this for some time, I'd like to share these ideas on behalf of NAGTROC.

To first provide some background, NAGTROC was officially created in the Spring of 2006 as the community's interest in the then-upcoming R35 GT-R grew stronger. Although NAGTROC started small, it has seen substantial growth since, and is now the single largest R35 specific community on the internet. By post counts and activity, we estimate that we have over 80% share of all activity in the US, and over 50% of all R35 specific activity, anywhere in the world outside of Japan. That's not adjusted for the fact that a significant amount of content that first appears on NAGTROC then propagates to other websites. While accurate numbers are very difficult to obtain, we estimate that at least 1 in 4 of all North American GT-R owners are NAGTROC guests or active members. Although not directly applicable to this discussion, we also have a growing international community on NAGTROC, with valued members and guests in Singapore, the UAE, the UK, Europe, and Australia, to name a few regions. Indeed, many of the most active members in overseas GT-R communities are members on NAGTROC. All of this has not gone unnoticed by the industry. NAGTROC has sponsorship agreements with over 30 of North America's leading aftermarket companies, every North American GT-R racing team, and every major GT-R tuning house in the United States. In the media, we have a close partnership with the leading GT-R news blog GTRblog, and are also covered by the largest companies in the online media space including Autoblog, Jalopnik, and Edmunds. This extensive coverage has led us to conservatively estimate that NAGTROC has had a direct or indirect impact on at least half of all current and prospective North American GT-R owners.

It is from this viewpoint that the GT-R market is observed and that these ideas are presented.



#2 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:34 AM

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1 | Certified Pre Owned GT-R Program

The Issue: GT-Rs could see very sharp declines in value in the secondary market as potential buyers overprice risk. In short, buyers are afraid that they're buying GT-Rs of questionable condition and reliability. They also fear that these GT-Rs may not have warranties, reducing demand and interest.

The Solution: All pre-owned GT-Rs sold by Nissan dealers become "certified". A similar certification or assessment program should be made available to private GT-R owners wishing to resell their GT-Rs.

Detail:

All GT-Rs that are traded in at Nissan dealers for resale should become certified. Certification should include:
  • An extensive review of the vehicle including verification of proper engine and transmission operation.  
  • Review of correct steering operation, suspension geometry, chassis geometry
  • All features confirmed to be working (similar to current CPO multipoint check lists)
  • An immediate POS (including transmission relearn, engine intake balancing, and suspension settings realignment
  • Road test by GT-R certified technician signing off on the operation of the vehicle
  • Full vehicle cleaning including suspension components and underbody with Nissan specified cleaning agents
The certification of each pre-owned GT-R should be documented with a certification report. This report should be made available to all prospective owners. Each report should contain:
  • Manufacture date, mileage information
  • Summary of service history
  • Flickr based operation history
  • A detailed list of all certification related checks including the above
  • Detail on warranty provided
  • Dated signature from the lead GT-R technician at the dealership
Whereas most CPO programs today are only applied to a certain subset of vehicles, all GT-Rs should be certified. That is because all GT-Rs are built to achieve a certain, very high, specification of performance. Certification serves to disclose what Nissan can understand of the vehicle from the information they have and from their expert analysis via their dealers. This is something that prospective GT-R owners would value. It would allow them to buy with confidence as it would reduce risk.

Not all certified GT-Rs need to include a warranty, but all GT-Rs should be certified. The fact that Nissan can't always be a warrantor in cases where aftermarket modifications have been made to a GT-R is a separate issue from the professional disclosure and description of the condition of pre owned GT-Rs that can be performed.  GT-Rs that have been modified in such a way that Nissan North America (NNA) cannot provide a warranty should be sold as such, with no warranty where applicable (eg powertrain). This warranty (or lack thereof) should be made clear and fully disclosed in the certification report. This is not too unlike purchasing a certified aircraft and for good reason: high performance machines can only be safe to operate through proper maintenance and precautionary measures.

GT-Rs that will remain under warranty should receive an extension where available, not unlike many current CPO programs.  In the certification report, Flickr recordings from the car should be disclosed to the customer, so the customer is aware approximately how the vehicle was driven, both in terms of frequency and in terms of intensity. Other data, such as launch control use, overboosting, over temperatures, etc should also be noted. Nissan can also simplify all of this data by including a summary page in the front of the report. This summary should be consistent across certified cars and reflect key things that buyers should know. This would be a good place for Nissan to grade the vehicles, to further assist buyers in quickly assessing the vehicle they're looking at.

For GT-Rs that are privately owned and not traded in with a GT-R certified dealership, a slightly modified certification program should be available. This program should allow GT-R owners to bring their cars into a certified dealership to have the dealer examine the car and document what they find. The certification-assessment report provided should be provisional, noting that it's a privately owned car, and noting the date of the assessment as well as additional reminders to buyers that the assessment merely represents a snapshot of the condition of privately owned cars and that the condition of the car may change. Within this program, assessed cars should not receive the dealer tech's signature. Instead, the report should only be stamped by the dealership and the 'privately owned' class certification should be made clear on the report cover.

The net result of pre-owned GT-R certification, either for dealer cars or privately owned cars, is a program that if structured at a (aggressively) low cost to customer, will allow buyers to quickly and confidently buy GT-Rs in such a way that not only is the buying experience improved, but added value is created to the customer directly and business is created and retained among Nissan's partners/dealers.

Customer Benefits:
  • All GT-Rs become more attractive in secondary markets because prospective owners get a peace of mind and security in buying that does not currently exist
  • Most GT-Rs likely to also receive a warranty extension, creating added value to customer
  • Because the program will be done by Nissan, and customers will be buying from Nissan dealers, NNA and its dealer partners will have the opportunity to better control the GT-R ownership experience for 2nd and subsequent owners, leading to increased customer satisfaction
  • Increased customer satisfaction due to fewer 2nd and subsequent customers being surprised by repair/maintenance bills post purchase
  • Original customers will be confident that their car will remain valuable over time, making the GT-R more attractive in the new car market than it otherwise would be
  • Overall improved buying and ownership experience
Nissan Benefits:
  • Improved brand value for Nissan and the GT-R
  • Improved GT-R value on the secondary market which will translate to improved value in the new market
  • Improved value of brand new GT-Rs as customers will understand that their cars will retain their value, supporting demand for the car in the new market
  • Improved relationship with dealers due to added value creation for dealer/partners
  • An increase in data on GT-R reliability to use as an input into future product design
  • Happier customers; Less risk that customers buy GT-Rs and later discover that the cars are not under warranty
  • More GT-Rs on the road in better condition with happier owners, netting improvements to brand perception and business opportunities
Dealer Benefits:
  • Competitive advantage over other non-GT-R dealers that have GT-Rs: Customers much more likely to buy from Nissan GT-R certified dealers
  • Improved value for the GT-R in the new market as well as in the pre owned market
  • The opportunity to stay in touch with current GT-R owners and future owners of the same car.
  • Increased business opportunities per GT-R
  • More sales/service opportunities
  • More GT-Rs on the road in better condition with happier owners, netting improvements to brand perception and business opportunities
  • More experience maintaining GT-Rs

The Financial Approach for NNA:
After Nissan designs the program, dealers can certify GT-Rs themselves in line with Nissan guidance. Dealers can then recover the relatively small cost on the sale of the car. Dealers also benefit from the opportunity to assess/certify privately owned GT-Rs.

Since some warranties will no longer be held, that becomes added value to Nissan. Within the program, Nissan can extend other warranties or offer a warranty extension program and calculate the projected revenue, looking at the program not unlike many current CPO programs.




#3 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:34 AM

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2 | Warranty Clarification

The Issue: Despite new transmission-friendly software, many GT-R owners are afraid that if they track their cars, even in HPDE (High Performance Drivers Education) environments, their warranties will immediately be voided, even on parts of the GT-R that are not impacted by performance driving. Further, prospective GT-R buyers, who have heard many ongoing rumors regarding GT-R reliability and warranty issues, are not aware of hardware/software changes and current policies. As a result, many of these prospective owners falsely believe that owning a GT-R would involve significant warranty risk, diminishing the value of the GT-R to them and reducing the value of the GT-R in the market as a whole.

The Solution: Warranty clarification from Nissan combined with revised implementation.

Detail:

The upcoming 2012 GT-R presents a number of opportunities for Nissan. Being the new standard against which so many are compared and seek to be compared, a rise in the bar of performance will not go unnoticed and is likely to attract much attention in the media and among enthusiasts. This is a prime opportunity to refine Nissan's approach to the car and it's customers. Among the improvements in how GT-R related affairs can be handled include modifications to the existing warranty program.

Suggested changes include:
  • Clarification that a GT-R's warranty would never be summarily void - If a component is modified or replaced with non-Nissan OEM parts, the warranty for that component, and its dependencies, is at risk but not unrelated components. (eg transmission modifications should not normally affect the warranty of the DVD player mechanism). The language of Nissan's current policies runs contrary to this - something that scares many potential buyers and current owners. Informed buyers and owners may believe that the language runs contrary to US Federal Law. Indeed it runs contrary to reasonable expectations, and Nissan should not attempt to create warranty exclusions that could be seen as being in conflict with Federal Law. Regardless of the legal argument, even if Nissan were successful in the enforcement of warranty denials in such cases, the monetary benefit is not worth the damage done to customer confidence and the image of Nissan and the GT-R. These are issues that have plagued the GT-R to date and have helped to dampen demand and sales. This clarification of Nissan's stance should be made not only to customers at time of purchase but also to dealers. This is because many dealers are misinformed on warranty related affairs and many also misinform customers-  at times intentionally- regarding warranty policies.
  • Clarification that Nissan will make reasonable attempts to determine the cause of the failure
  • Clarification on extensive track use and / or abuse - While this may void the warranty on some components, this should be examined on a case by case basis. To help potential customers/owners have fair expectations, Nissan should clarify that it expects GT-Rs under warranty to see more time on the street than at the track (at whatever ratio or metric, as an example) and better define expectations. Nissan has already made significant investments into building the GT-R to have very high capabilities and have very sophisticated monitoring systems to indicate how GT-Rs are being driven. Dealerships have invested into having the ability to maintain GT-Rs. These investments should not go to waste via summarily voiding warranties for track use. While it is understandable to not guarantee warranty coverage on components that have failed from track use, Nissan should make efforts to back the product they've built when customers expect that it would be safe to track the vehicle. If a customer attends the occasional autocross or HPDE event, the customer should not be left to worry about a $30,000 transmission and a $50,000 engine. A properly maintained GT-R, if driven properly, should be able to survive the occasional track day. Further, this supports the fight to take racing off the streets. If Nissan could define a rate of tracking (eg once per six weeks) or other operating range/intensity (eg temperatures based on flickr data) as fair, as well as guidelines on maintenance and the like, in order to maintain warranty, it would go far to improve customer confidence.
Nissan should be very clear that in some cases (eg Engine or Transmission), warranty claims are not determined by the dealer, and are only determined by Nissan Japan. Nissan should remind dealers of this so they can inform customers. This is something that should be clearly understood by all GT-R owners.

Customer Benefits:
  • Improved ownership experience due to less risk during ownership and accurate expectations
Nissan Benefits:
  • Improved brand value for Nissan and the GT-R
  • Happier customers due to accurate expectations
Dealer Benefits:
  • Happier customers due to accurate expectations
The Financial Approach for NNA:
The primary costs are communication and time, although a review of the warranty/return projections will likely be required.



#4 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:35 AM

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3 | GT-R Owner's Link

The Opportunity: It's not efficient to conduct all communication with car owners, particularly GT-R owners, by physical mail. Furthermore, a reliance on physical mail imposes a 'cost' of communication that limits what/when/how to communicate with GT-R owners. This limits information that can be shared with owners, opportunities that can arise from otherwise efficient communication, and puts unnecessary constraints on the lines of communication.

The Solution:  A complementary program where all GT-R owners have electronic accounts to receive information from and communicate with Nissan and Nissan dealers. The program also includes various tools to assist in vehicle maintenance, vehicle information, and more.

Detail:

Nissan should create an online portal that Nissan, its dealers/partners, and its customers can all use to communicate with each other. The portal should have its own dedicated site, eg http://owners.gtrnissan.com, and all GT-R dealers should be notified about its creation. To notify owners and help them get started, NNA can mail notifications of creation of the site, and allow owners to use their own info as well as the VIN for their cars to login and create their accounts.

The Owner's Link would allow for private communication and information sharing. Some of the key features made possible include:

  • NNA Announcements - Nissan announcements for new programs (eg Certified GT-R Program), GT-R related events, or other important notices (eg EVAP service bulletin) to all customers. While some notices may still need to be sent to customers via mail for legal reasons, many do not need to be. Further, because the cost is so little, Nissan can keep customers informed on many more topics and events in an effective, efficient and timely fashion.
  • "My GT-R" - Detailed information about the vehicle the customer owns. Information presented could include images representing the factory trim of the car and color trim, the VIN, trim detail and factory options equipped. For new GT-R customers with GT-Rs being built, this part of the site can show progress updates on the build as well as estimated delivery dates and the like. Current GT-R owners could be able to see historic information as far as when their car was built and when/where it was delivered.
  • "My Logs" - Prior maintenance history and notes relevant to the car. Dealers could add notes to this. Customers could also add notes for service not done at a dealer, with references to where/how it's done. Customers could upload receipts, images, etc per service as well as notes, miles used etc. Other notes could also be added, with mileage and description, for personal reference. This can basically become an electronic logbook for GT-R owners. That becomes useful for customers to track their own maintenance or for Nissan to track customer patterns. This is also valuable to GT-Rs that get sold: the "key" to the Owners Link account would be of significant value-add to prospective Certified GT-R owners.
  • Messages - Available for the customer, dealers, and NNA to send messages, requests, questions, etc. Message waiting notifications should be converted to emails and sent to ensure recipients are aware of new messages. This would be useful for Nissan, dealers, and customer to communicate with each other. In cases where a customer might have to spend the time to call (and wait on hold) to ask a question via the NNA GT-R hotline, or cases where a customer might want to ask a dealer a question, this would be useful.
  • Reference -  All appropriate documents pertaining to the owner/their GT-R (eg owners manuals, service manual,). This section of the site should contain all of the relevant manuals and agreements with Nissan relevant to the owner/GT-R on the account.
  • Advertising - Nissan could monetize the traffic and resource utilization by selling ad space.  Because the customer demographic is very well defined, this program offers significant value to Nissan and others in advertising. Because certain local/application specific services can be presented to customers, there's also an opportunity to create value to customer (eg advertising service sales and part discounts with a dealer local to customer, advertising a new product that Nissan has approved but is made by another company) Note that advertising on Owner's Link should be limited and restricted to certain conditions, companies, etc. By presentation, too little advertising space is better than too much - anything more than a small advertising blocks on the Owner's Link site could undermine customer interest and deter many from using the system.
  • NAGTROC - Linkback to NAGTROC. The Owners Link could have a link to NAGTROC with an explanation that NAGTROC is an independent GT-R owners club featuring community news, discussion, regional meets, and more.
This infrastructure should go hand in hand with a private/backend online dealer service. That would allow dealers who are creating their own Nissan websites to interface with their customers electronically via the Owner's Link. Not only could customers then contact their dealers with whatever questions they may have, but they could also do things such as make service appointments electronically. Going forward, this platform would be easy for Nissan to add features to and would be a great way to keep in touch with customers/partners on new services and products in the future.

Customer Benefits:
  • Owners will be able to easily and conveniently make service requests, without picking up the phone (electronic appointment request), saving them time and money
  • Owners will be able to easily get in touch with NNA, improving satisfaction
  • Owner satisfaction will improve as owners are happier with Nissan and their treatment
  • Owners will be better aware of any GT-R issues, improving confidence
  • Owners have the opportunity to ask basic operation or advanced technical questions that a dealer, NNA, or Nissan engineers could address
  • Owners will have a powerful but simple tool to better understand their GT-Rs
Nissan Benefits:
  • Substantially improved communication with customers
  • Ability to create a better relationship with the customer
  • Opportunity to gain customer feedback on purchase experience, ownership experience, etc. (eg can send electronic surveys)
  • Opportunity to obtain data on customer needs, preferences, how customers drive, etc
  • Opportunity to significantly improve customer satisfaction
  • Creates a framework for future business opportunities (eg investment into this can be levered via the creation of other portals for other unique vehicles important to Nissan)
  • Improved brand value for Nissan and the GT-R
Dealer Benefits:
  • Easily stay in touch with customers, including service reminders, answering questions, confirming service requests, etc in a way that customers are likely to respond positively to
  • Improved customer relationships and customer satisfaction
  • Improved value-added communication with customers.
  • Opportunity to better understand customer needs, driving patterns, etc and tailer service accordingly (note: privacy is important)
The Financial Approach for NNA:
NNA would be fronting the financial cost for creating, setting up, and maintaining the site. NNA could then advertise its own products and services including merchandising. NNA could also sell advertising. This infrastructure could grow and be applied to other special cars to Nissan (eg LEAF).



#5 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:35 AM

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4 | Nismo GT-R Program & GT-R Premiere


The Issue: The GT-R is a unique and complex car. Many owners want to track their GT-Rs but fear extremely high maintenance costs. Also, many owners want to setup their GT-Rs to better optimize on track capabilities, something that is becoming an increasingly important topic. These owners are educated and have financial resources, but are not familiar with the inner workings of the GT-R and would prefer not to take risks regarding the quality of aftermarket products and services. In addition, these owners fear working with Nissan and dealers in the future, believing that Nissan does not want to see GT-Rs being tracked. This poses questions regarding the suitability of GT-Rs to track use, whether competitive or not, and the feasibility of maintaining such a GT-R over the long term, especially outside of warranty. These fears have lead many to not want to buy the GT-R since it is believed that they can never truly use a GT-R as they might another car. All of this threatens the legend and legacy that the R35 GT-R attempts to continue.

The Solution:The creation of two GT-R Programs (1) Nismo GT-R program, which would allow GT-R owners to register with NNA and purchase Nissan approved parts for their cars in a way that not only meets their needs for both performance and maintenance, but does so at a reasonable cost while maintaining a positive and beneficial relationship with NNA and dealers. (2) A GT-R Premier program, which would assist in long term GT-R ownership & maintenance.


Detail:

It's unclear why Nissan is apparently opposed to private GT-Rs being raced and modified to race. If Nissan believes that the legend of the GT-R comes strictly from what was accomplished in Group A, that's not true. That's a key part of the legend, but the other half of the story is in the greatness of the R32-34 vehicles built for the street, and what they achieved in the hands of race teams and enthusiasts. To build a new GT-R and intend on it not being raced or modified to do so, is a quick way to attempt to damage the GT-R's name. Nissan's apprehension to seeing the GT-R raced must come from either 1 Nissan is skeptical regarding the aftermarket's ability to modify the car properly or 2 Nissan views the car as an artist views a masterpiece and doesn't want to see it touched.

If it's the former, programs such as GT-R Premiere (elaborated on below) will help ensure parts availability while the nature of the GT-R market will support quality. On our end, NAGTROC will be implementing new policies this year to help support quality within the GT-R aftermarket. If Nissan's concern is the latter, the GT-R is a series production car, and as a result, cannot be a closed platform. While the community has great respect for the factory setup, some race, and this is in the GT-R's DNA. Nissan should not seek to alienate such enthusiasts. Regardless of whichever of these beliefs Nissan subscribes to, the GT-R will be raced and modified. The best thing that Nissan can do is help ensure that the community has the guidance and support it needs to do so in a way that is best for the GT-R in terms of performance/image and respectable to the original intent of its planners and designers.

The beautiful thing is that this leaves Nissan with an opportunity to make additional revenue off the GT-R program. It's the best possible scenario because Nissan has an opportunity to make money (what they're in business for) and enthusiasts have the opportunity to get the maximum from their cars (what they buy their cars for). On the surface of it, the only people who might lose out are the aftermarket companies. With programs such as GT-R Premiere though, even they end up with more than they started with as they stand to benefit from manufacturer support in racing as well as support in replacement parts availability, not to mention indirect benefits from an increase in overall GT-R demand and improved brand strength.

The ultimate concept of these two programs then is relatively simple. GT-R Premiere allows customers to receive advanced service on their factory Nissan products in a way that does not currently exist while the Nismo GT-R program allows customers to setup their GT-Rs for customer specific applications such as the track day use.  

Select dealers should be given the opportunity to become Nismo certified, pending investment into tooling and training on their end. The total number of Nismo certified dealers should be limited, but all regions and major areas should have a local Nismo certified dealer. On the customer's end, the programs should be open by registration only. This allows Nissan to ensure that customers are aware and agree to all required policies before program participation. That protects Nissan's interests and helps to manage customer expectations. As a part of the program, customers can be forced to acknowledge special terms that apply to the program and different purchases. For example, the purchase of a certain part may not include any warranty, or may be offered for off-road only use. Program registration helps to ensure that the customers are aware of these limitations.


Example Nismo Products:
  • Nismo Exhaust II: Downpipe, midpipe, and a new final section.
  • Nismo Software Update: ECM & TCM remaps - S0 for unmodified car. S1 for full nismo exhaust. Note that both packages should include a new VDC-R which modifies VDC-R mode to increase certain limits, not intervene on non-slip acceleration (eg WOT downhill track sections), increase LC reliability/consistency and ease of engagement in multiple TCM modes)
  • Nismo Endurance Cooling Package: Brake ducts, upgraded radiator, upgraded engine oil cooler, differential coolers, transmission cooler - These should be tested and designed as a single package for aggressive track use in hot climates with higher than stock power output vehicles (MY09+30% or better).
  • Nismo MFD Expansion pack II: MFD/GPS Update - On upgradeable GT-Rs, this package add gauges (wideband AFR, Engine Timing Adv, Battery voltagte, Engine load, Barometric Pressure, Ambient Air Temp, Vehicle yaw angle, Injector Duty Cycles). Adds options for popup warnings on max/range on gauge items. Adds stopwatch datalog mode which records data from custom screens 1+2 + GPS timestamped + geotagged at 30hz and saved to HDD (transferable to USB in CSV format). Also adds pin protected home location feature to MFD, pin protected valet mode (disables LC, disables R modes, introduces soft rpm & limit), and MFD peak/hold/reset view options.
  • Nismo Suspension/Tire R-Package: Package includes replacement coilovers, wheels and tires for high output GT-Rs - Wider MY12 twin spoke wheels, painted black with wider Bridgestone RE070R tires as well as revised spring/shock tuning,  designed as an OE street tire solution for GT-Rs running MY09 power output + 45%. Package should also include guidance on appropriate alignment ranges.
  • Nismo Seats: Lightweight manual 4way adjustable seats priced below clubsport seats
  • Suspension Remake: Suspension servicing by testing and upgrading - This package will allow a customer to purchase new suspension and subframe mounts as well as bushings and spring/shock units to bring a GT-R in line with a newer series.
  • Brake Remake: Service and rebuild brake calipers
Within this program, it should be mandatory that parts are installed at a Certified Nismo location. That guarantees the quality of work performed. Warranties should be adjusted on a component/dependency level according to the products involved (some products may have warranties while others may not, some products may limit or reduce warranties on existing parts on the car). Note this program should be reasonably and aggressively priced to promote participation (ie new GT-R seats should not cost $20,000 as is currently the case).

Certified Nismo locations should be trained to service GR6 transmissions, under a program called GT-R Premier. They should have the ability to remove/replace transmissions and diagnose potential issues. Customers should pay to have the transmission in need of service removed and should be warned that replacement may be required at time of removal (ie repair may not be possible). Following the diagnosis, customers would have the opportunity to pay to have a repair performed, replacing only what's needed and recommended, possibly without the need of buying a new transmission.


Customer Benefits:
  • Increased satisfaction as customers will be able to reliably and affordably build GT-Rs for track or competitive use without needing to look at alternative competing platforms
  • The GT-R would become more attractive due to reduced ownership risk and new facilities to support competitive use, even for those who only casually track their GT-Rs
  • Improved GT-R value on the secondary market which will translate to improved value on the new market
  • Owners will have improved confidence in owning a GT-R for the longer term, knowing that the transmission can be repaired.
Nissan Benefits:
  • Substantially improved product image and brand image for the GT-R. Many are concerned regarding the risk of owning a GT-R for the long term (out of warranty). This addresses that risk for all users. Many are also concerned with the cost of using the GT-R as intended. This addresses those concerns as well
  • Effective advertising. More people racing GT-Rs reliably and successfully will lead to more brand awareness. The administrative costs of the program can be passed on to Nismo Service Centers and Customers
  • Happier customers. Many customers would not have had an issue with denied warranty claims on transmissions if there were an alternative other than buying a new one @ $20k++ without diagnosis
  • Improved brand perception for both Nissan and the GT-R as the long term value of the GT-R is understood in the customer's eyes.
Dealer Benefits:
  • Improved GT-R demand and value
  • New business & service opportunities (for Nismo certified dealers)
  • New long term service opportunities
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • More GT-Rs on the road/track in better condition with happier owners, netting improvements to brand perception and business opportunities
The Financial Approach for NNA:
Nissan could cover the cost of product development or alternatively, in many cases, this could be passed on to another manufacturer with Nissan imposed requirements. Nissan would need to cover the cost of training Certified Nismo dealers and build this program, as well as the costs of continuing business. However, minimal marketing would be necessary, and many costs could be passed down to dealers and customers. In addition, revenue from sales would also help offset original costs.



#6 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:35 AM

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5 | The Legend is Real, GT-R Premiere

The Issue: Many of the GT-R's performance capabilities extend far beyond owners skill sets. This has resulted in a disconnect between many owners on track experiences/performances and popular expectations. This has had negative effects on the GT-Rs perception among those who track their cars and participate in motorsport events. Further, the GT-R's service requirements as a platform extend beyond many companies resources given current racing budgets. The net result is that while the R35 makes the legend 'real', the enthusiast and non-professional race community needs help and guidance to fully realize the GT-R's potential. At this point in time, when global sales could be better and the market perception is lackluster, there is a prime opportunity for Nissan, and even NAGTROC, to help push the GT-R forward.

The Solution: (1) Nissan organized track events on weekends throughout the year to bring GT-R owners together and help educate them on their vehicles in a track setting (The Legend is Real).  (2) Nissan supported "intermediate" racing endeavors. Programs such as the Nismo program and GT-R Premier as suggested above would do much to help grassroots race efforts. This in turn would help the GT-R community to achieve positive results in competitions such as Redline Time Attack, NASA sanctioned events, One Lap of America, and in other racing endeavors. (3) Where appropriate, Nissan should continue to back professional and nonprofessional but organized race efforts, providing guidance and support where needed.

Detail:

NNA should organize a series of weekend High Performance Drivers Education Events across the US. These can be campaigned as "The Legend is Real" or "Realizing the Legend", or similar. During these events, Nissan can provide a safe driving and educational environment for GT-R owners to better learn their cars. Owners could pay to participate, helping Nissan with the costs. Prospective GT-R owners can be invited by local dealers to attend. For them, it would be a great opportunity to meet other GT-R owners and experience the GT-R's performance first hand, through ride alongs with GT-R instructors.

Meanwhile, GT-R Premier, as outlined above, would not only allow for the servicing of GT-R transmissions but also give approved program participants expanded access to Nissan/GT-R factory parts. This would be very valuable to assist smaller organizations in fielding GT-Rs and would also help grassroots racing efforts. Requirements for entry might include GT-R ownership and either Nismo Program membership or independent Race Program participation. GT-R Premier membership should be subject to renewal every year. NAGTROC can assist Nissan/NNA in recommendations regarding applicants as well as be a reference for applicants. As has been seen on a limited basis already, Nissan should continue to support race efforts where possible.


Customer Benefits:
  • Improved ownership experience due to better understanding and appreciation for the vehicles they own (at amateur levels)
  • Increased satisfaction and pride toward the Nissan and GT-R brands
  • Improved ownership experience due to the opportunities to meet other GT-R owners in Nissan organized events
  • Improved satisfaction with the GT-R operation experience for GT-R Premier members
Nissan Benefits:
  • Can guide customer experience further: as customers understand the GT-R more, they can understand more of the value of programs offered
  • Advertising & significantly improved brand image as GT-Rs compete successfully
  • Further opportunity to interact with customers and gain valuable feedback from real world GT-R operation, as intended.
  • Happier customer base
Dealer Benefits:
  • Added business and service opportunities
  • Improved customer satisfaction
The Financial Approach for NNA:
For public events, NNA should front the cost. This could then be recovered, to a large degree, by charging for entry if NNA is unable to make this a complementary program. Even if NNA had to charge, it would be value add to customers, especially if NNA could supply GT-R certified techs, engineers, and drivers to events. For GT-R Prmiere, NNA would be providing access to parts to many at a reasonable cost- not free- limiting the true cost to NNA/Nissan. For team sponsorship, NNA would cover the cost and would need to view it as an investment into the brand to the extent they feel appropriate.



#7 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:35 AM

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6 | Improved Owners & Prospective Owners Experience

The Issue: The GT-R represents a paradigm shift in production performance cars. Many prospective GT-R owners know this. But because it's so different and there have been so many rumors, prospective owners do not have an accurate understanding of what GT-R ownership entails. They aren't sure what to expect as far as purchasing costs, vehicle reliability, maintenance costs, dealer treatment, warranty, etc. They also aren't sure how Nissan feels about the car's use. This, combined with rumor and misinformation from dealers has led many to assume the worst. Not wanting to carry risks they see as potentially large, many prospective GT-R buyers are instead looking at and buying other cars that they feel they feel more comfortable owning (eg M3, 911). These owners ultimately do many of the same things with those cars that Nissan made the GT-R for.

The Solution: Revamped purchase process, inclusive of all prospective owners from the moment they express interest.

Detail:

In 20 years, when today's children are in the market for a high end sports car, their view on the GT-R will be different from that of many today. They will identify with a car that represents progression, superior design and engineering, and superior use of technology. They will have grown up with satellite radio, touch screen interfaces, GPS, advanced computer simulations, computerized driving aids, and the like. They will not see the GT-R as many of the older, more traditional enthusiasts do today. As a result, interest in the GT-R should only increase over time and Nissan's investment into not only continuing the legend, but doing so globally, is a wise one. Indeed on the basis of appeal alone, the GT-R has massive appeal with the younger generation, and it's pretty clear that their ownership aspirations will be different from prior generations. In this stage however, it's important that Nissan be progressive, make the most of the opportunity, and not create a negative image for itself among the public.

All GT-R inquiries must be taken seriously, regardless of a customer's age, sex, race, or apparent background. GT-R owners come in all kinds and the brand does not need to be associated with the selective treatment of customers that plagues other "classic" brands. Once a customer expresses interest, a dealer should be able to guide them through all questions and issues in an informed and professional fashion. Too many dealers are misinformed on GT-R affairs. This devalues the brand because conflicting information is received from a source that should be trustworthy. That's a problem because if a customer cannot trust his or her dealer, how can the customer trust that the dealer will make their vehicle safe to perform as designed? This might be a small issue for a Sentra or Altima but in a car that the customer might at some point be traveling 195 mph in, a car that should reflect Nissan's highest ideals, that is a major problem. Then there's the psychological aspect. If the sellers of a product aren't properly informed about the product, customers will naturally tend to devalue the product in their mind, at least relative to other products where that is not the case.

To that end, NNA should guide dealers on how to handle customer interest.

The management of interest should begin with literature, since many will come across the literature for the GT-R. This literature should be expanded to go into further detail in the following areas:
  • Nissan's desire to see the GT-R be used in all conditions- Unlike many of the GT-R's competitors, the GT-R is able to be used in all seasons. Dealers have invested valuable resources to ensure their ability to maintain the car as such. This is unique to the GT-R and not like a vast majority of cars on the market, especially cars of the GT-Rs caliber. This should be highlighted to the customer.
  • Dealer investment into the GT-R - The literature should also elaborate on dealer service abilities and why dealers have invested in the ways they have- highlighting the quality of support Nissan intends on providing to GT-R owners.
  • Elaboration on intended use - This is another opportunity to highlight Nissan's stance on the fact that it's OK to take a GT-R to High Performance Driving Events and clarify  Nissan's expectations regarding a vehicle's use.
  • Ownership experience - The benefits of the ownership experience should be highlighted, including upcoming Nissan programs eg Owner's Link.
  • Heritage - Nissan should be very proud of the GT-R's heritage and should make it very clear to anyone willing to listen. Therefore, this topic deserves space in official GT-R literature, where contemporary and historic GT-R race cars, and their achievements, should be highlighted.
Beyond literature, NNA's guidance to dealers on customer treatment should address other likely scenarios as well. Dealers should be able to discuss the buying process (eg referencing Owner's Link --per above) and dealer services. Interested customers should be able to tour the dealer's service investments and discuss dealer service commitments. This transparency not only helps build trust but it shows the extent of the dealer's investments into the GT-R. Importantly, dealers should be able to discuss how the GT-R compares with its competition (eg M3, 911 C2, 911 Turbo, ISF, Corvette Z06) and be able to accurately inform the customer of the differences. Customers should be invited to Nissan events for the opportunity to drive and ride in GT-Rs (as outlined above). In situations where the dealer does not know the answer to a question the customer has asked, the dealer should take the customers information and follow up with answers. This is important to ensure that customers remain informed.

NNA should also continue to provide guidance to dealers on pricing. While the price of the GT-R has somewhat stabilized, it's important that the variance among dealers remains as small as possible. Large variations in price encourage customers to shop elsewhere, at best undermining the relationships dealers can build with customers. At worst, they may not buy GT-Rs at all, especially if a dealer attempts to set an unrealistic price in an effort to select their customers.

Post sale, the dealer should work to bring the customer into the GT-R community. This includes participation in- and providing assistance with- programs such as Owner's Link (as outlined above) as well as inviting the customer to Nissan and dealer events (also as outlined above). Dealers should be very receptive to customer communication post purchase and should reach out to customers to find out if they're satisfied or if there's anything the customers need. On new product updates or new service updates, dealers should also reach out to inform customers, using tools such as Owners Link (described above) where available. This helps build customer satisfaction. Communication with an unhappy customer should be preferred to the customer communicating his or her unhappiness with Nissan or the GT-R to others.

Nissan should continue to work with customers to ensure their dealership experiences have been satisfactory. Where customer experiences have fallen short of the standard, NNA should reach out to customers to assist them in finding alternative dealers or help with whatever the issue may be.

A stronger GT-R community not only yields happier customers but also increases the number of business opportunities for Nissan and the dealer. At a minimum though, it increases the brand's value.



Customer Benefits:
  • Starts ownership off on the right foot, owners likely to recommend GT-Rs to others
  • Substantially improved ownership experience
  • Improved ownership experience makes it less likely that owners will sell their cars for competing cars
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Owners given the sense of community, improving Nissan and GT-R brand loyalty
Nissan Benefits:
  • Improved brand and product image
  • Improved GT-R value in the new market
  • Happier customers
  • Improvements in brand loyalty among customer base
Dealer Benefits:
  • Substantially improved relationship with customers
  • Competitive advantages over rivaling manufacturer dealerships
  • Happier customers due to accurate expectations
  • Improvements in brand loyalty likely to lead to further business opportunities
The Financial Approach for NNA:
NNA would carry the cost of creating literature and training dealers. As noted above, programs such as Owner's Link and The Legend is Real have integrated means by which Nissan can help recover costs.



#8 Davin Posted 02 August 2010 - 09:30 AM

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Looking Forward

NAGTROC is the leading site for North American GT-R enthusiasts- encompassing not only fans but many prospective owners, current owners, race teams, and businesses. Many of these entities depend on NAGTROC to stay informed and make key decisions that NAGTROC is better positioned than anyone else to assist with. This is something that we recognize and take seriously. The administration of this site works through nearly all hours of the day and night to better the community and benefit everyone involved. This applies not only to discussion moderation but also providing community support, event organization, helping to guide the aftermarket industry, and working with partners and other organizations both domestic and abroad.

In line with our work and our goals, there is a real opportunity for NAGTROC to help Nissan market and improve the GT-R. While the GT-R wasn't meant to be advertised, and indeed management originally felt that the car should not be advertised, this is a significant opportunity that should not be missed.  NAGTROC offers a way for Nissan to not only advertise the GT-R, but also allow Nissan to connect with its customers, enhance its products, and get feedback to help Nissan better assess current conditions and grow the Nissan/GT-R business.

For the community, NAGTROC has not only provided a venue for discussion and information sharing, but we've also provided news, events, and our own coverage- including the original unveiling of the GT-R in Japan as well as the unveiling of the SpecV and an inside look at the Tochigi Factory where GT-Rs are assembled. We've covered many significant non-Nissan events as well, such as the SEMA show, Tokyo Auto Salon, and GT-R related race events. These are all activities we intend on continuing to cover in the future, and are also areas we intend on expanding further in as well.

We view our success as one that is linked with Nissan, so we believe that we are engaged in the same fight with the same objectives. On a regular basis we are exposed to confidential and proprietary information. Between us we have experience in fields ranging from government defense to financial services to private software development. As a result we are familiar with the many requirements of information distribution and the management of sensitive information. To achieve the success that we have, we have had to take this into account in how we conduct our business, so as to earn the trust of our members, sponsors, and supporters. We see our role as critical, and we do not want to see the GT-R fail in the US. In fact, it is our view that if the NAGTROC community could not succeed, if the enthusiast community were to reject the GT-R in the US, it would be a threat to the GT-R's business case in North America as a whole.

To that end, I present these ideas as ways for Nissan to improve the North American GT-R market. Given NAGTROC's role in the community, we recognize that there's a significant opportunity for NAGTROC to help provide a foundation of support for the success of the GT-R. Our responsibility is one we take very seriously and we welcome any opportunities we may have to work with Nissan North America, Nissan Motor Co Japan, and their partners in the future.


Davin Patton
davin@nagtroc.org
NAGTROC




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