Spirit of the Takumi is alive and well at South African NHPCs
The new 2017 Nissan GT-R represents the company’s pinnacle of engineering and Japanese automotive expertise with only five master craftsmen certified to hand-build each GT-R engine.
Nissan extends this bespoke approach to the care and servicing of every GT-R through its global network of specially-trained ‘Nissan High Performance Centres’ (NHPCs) – including two in South Africa.
“Each of our Nissan GT-R customers has an NHPC Technician’s number saved on their phone. They are on first-name basis with the technician, who after a few services, knows exactly how to service and set-up that customer’s car,” says Robbie Roberts, workshop manager at BB Nissan Hatfield and the adjacent Nissan GT-R HPC.
The concept of “One man, one engine” has been adopted from Nissan’s Yokohama engine plant, where only five master craftsmen, or Takumi, have been certified to hand-build the VR38 GT-R engine. Each of them – Izumi Shioya, Nobumtisu Gozu, Tsunemi Ooyama, Matsumoto Tetsuji and their aptly named leader, Takumi Kurosawa, takes full responsibility for the building of an engine. They finish each engine with an engraved plaque with their name on it as a sign of their approval.
“Stories abound of how these Takumi have rejected a perfectly operational and blue-printed VR38 engine because it ‘felt wrong under my hand’ or ‘it did not sound quite right’. This is one of the reasons the GT-R is so highly revered and mechanically bulletproof,” says Xavier Gobille, Managing Director Sales, Marketing and Aftersales at Nissan South Africa and Sub-Sahara.
In South Africa, NHPC technicians will take full responsibility for servicing a GT-R, using their specialist training to ensure that every GT-R performs to expectation. They qualify under the supervision of Japanese-trained specialists at Nissan South Africa’s head office in Rosslyn, Tshwane, and they have to attend six days of additional training over and above their regular technical training every year. Many have also honed their skill at the GT-R training facilities in Japan.
“We have very specialised diagnostic equipment that is only used in the servicing of GT-Rs. With this equipment, an NHPC technician is able to download detailed statistics from the GT-R’s black box and see exactly how and when the car was used and how best to set up the vehicle,” says Roberts.
Mike Grobler, parts and service director of Melrose Nissan and its HPC, adds: “Clients will often spend significant time with the technician to discuss their GT-R’s set-up, especially before an important track day or after such a day. The most fanatical of them will spend on average four hours watching the NHPC technician service the car from our glass-walled waiting room.”
Grobler, himself a trained GT-R NHPC technician, adds that they have serviced VR38-engined GT-Rs that have completed 40 000 km with one set of tyres and brakes and have never had any mechanical failure of any major component.
“This is particularly impressive if you consider that some of the out-of-warranty GT-Rs have been tuned to deliver over 800 horsepower, yet none of the GT-Rs we service have ever experienced mechanical failure.”
At BB Nissan Hatfield, the GT-R with the highest mileage has just clocked 200 000 km, and the owner still drives at track speeds on a regular basis.
“This client has a very close relationship with Louis de Wet, our Centurion-based NHPC specialist. He has never had any mechanical problems and only now, after 200 000 km, will we open the gearbox to service it.”
De Wet, like many of the other NHPC specialists, travels across South Africa to service GT-Rs. In doing so, he relies on Nissan South Africa’s expansive dealer network, while he travels with his GT-R diagnostic computers and special high-speed data plugs.
The Nissan GT-R is a rare type of supercar as it is sold with a 3-year or 50 000 km service plan and a 100 000 km warranty for the same period. Nissan requires that the GT-R is serviced at least once a year, but the vehicle will self-diagnose and communicate to the owner if it requires a non-scheduled service, especially if it is regularly used on a race track.
“The new GT-R is as comfortable on the road, as it is on the track. It is on the track that you see the bond between owner and car grow closer and they become more involved in setting up their car to their exact needs at their next service,” says Grobler.