BEIJING Sept 1 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co is tapping Usain Bolt's super-star status to help elevate the image of its 1.58 million yuan ($257,396) flagship GT-R two-door sports coupe in China, according to a senior company executive.
The Jamaican sprinter, who set the world record of 9.58 seconds for the 100-metre dash in Berlin in 2009, appeared in fan and media events in Beijing over the weekend. The events were sponsored by Nissan and Dongfeng Motor Group, the Yokohama-based automaker's joint venture partner in China.
"Establishing a brand and a car name cannot be achieved overnight, but with Mr. Bolt's help and starting today, Nissan wants to begin the process of creating a buzz around the GT-R," Hiroshi Tamura, Nissan's chief product strategist for the GT-R and other cars, told Reuters in an interview in Beijing on Sunday.
Bolt has been the GT-R's "global ambassador" since 2012, but the contract didn't cover China until now, according to a Nissan spokesman in Beijing.
The reason why the company has decided to tap Bolt's help in China is chiefly to address the GT-R's relative image deficiency in the country, a big premium auto market poised to surpass the United States in a few years as the world's leading luxury car market, according to Nissan officials.
In China, Nissan, with its manufacturing and sales joint venture partner Dongfeng Motor, sells roughly 100 GT-R cars a year, compared with 800 in Japan and 1,385 in the United States last year, Nissan officials say.
The Beijing Nissan spokesman declined to disclose a specific sales figure for the GT-R in China.
The GT-R has long been a big name among sports-car fans in Japan where it is known as the Skyline GT-R. It began gaining popularity in the U.S. and Europe in the late 2000s, when Nissan started exporting the model to those and other markets.
That gathering popularity stemmed in part from the popular car-racing video game Grand Turismo, which featured the GT-R prominently. (1 US dollar = 6.1384 Chinese yuan) (Editing by Ryan Woo)