The Datsun 510's spiritual successor had it all, except for one key thing.
It's been nearly seven years since Nissan unveiled its retro IDX concept coupes at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. The IDX Freeflow and IDX Nismo were a pair of rear-wheel-drive compact coupes with styling in the spirit of the Datsun 510. Although they were concepts, it certainly seemed possible that production would be greenlit given that Toyota and Subaru had recently launched the Scion FRS (now Toyota 86) and BRZ coupe twins.
Suddenly, the RWD compact Japanese sports car segment had the potential to be revitalized. Because Toyota and Subaru took a chance, Nissan figured the idea was certainly worth exploring. By 2015, however, it became clear the IDX concepts were dead. Nissan never provided an official reason why, but given the fairly low profit margins from sporty coupes, it didn't take a genius to solve this one.
The Drive, however, recently uncovered a Reddit post from a Nissan engineer, whose identity the publication confirmed, who not only worked on the IDX concepts but also knows exactly why the plug was pulled.
Turns out Nissan "actually, legitimately had plans to produce [the IDX]," but a closer examination of the business case proved otherwise. Difficulties quickly popped up. The first and most significant hurdle, according to the unnamed engineer who wishes to remain anonymous, was where would production take place. There was only one Nissan plant in the world that could handle the task. The Tochigi, Japan plant, which builds the Nissan 370Z and GT-R, was the only facility that could accommodate vehicles with longitudinally-mounted engines and both rear- and/or all-wheel drive. Capacity and capability were not the issues, but expensive re-tooling was. For a vehicle with low profit margins, Nissan simply couldn't justify the expense.
Another issue Nissan realized was body style. The IDX was a coupe only whereas the 510 was offered as a coupe, sedan, and even a station wagon. In other words, a production IDX would not appeal to every 510 enthusiast out there. And lastly, an entry-level IDX coupe had the potential to damage demand for the 370Z. Internal competition is the last thing any automaker wants. These reality check factors forced Nissan to do what it had to do, unfortunately.
The good news is that not only are both the 370Z and GT-R still with us (despite their age) but successors are planned. Recent spy shots of a mysterious 370Z test mule running laps around the Nurburgring has caused all kinds of speculation about what Nissan has in store.