CC Capsule: 1994 Nissan Cedric (Y32) Brougham J – The Unravelling Beckons

In the long history of the Cedric / Gloria, the Y32 (i.e. the 8th generation for the Cedric, 9th for the Gloria) is the anti-climax of the saga. At this point in the story, the prestige-oriented Nissan’s hitherto remarkably stable success started to fray, caught in a perfect storm of its maker’s questionable stewardship, competition both internal and external, and a stifling economic climate.

June 1991: the launch of the Y32 coincides with the implosion of the Japanese economic bubble. Up to that point, the Japanese clientele was insatiably demanding ever more gadget-laden luxury saloons – Crowns, Glorias, Luces, it was all snapped up eagerly. Then the economy went south and demand vanished virtually overnight, catching Nissan and their new Cedric / Gloria / Cima by surprise.

It wasn’t just Nissan, either. Toyota had just launched a new Crown, further augmented by the Majesta V8 sister model, and nobody wanted those any longer. Mitsubishi’s new Debonair was struggling too. Mazda was in the process of trying to evolve though engineering several new brands, kind of like what Honda had done with Acura or Nissan with Infiniti, but ineptly and on the JDM, not abroad. A big bath was taken by all concerned.

Cutthroat competition for a shrinking market was a big part of the problem for the Cedric / Gloria. The other big problem was that the Y32 range was pitched at a higher level than before, while being squeezed between the formal Y31 saloon, which the more conservative folks preferred, and the fancier Cima, Nissan’s surprise hit of the late ’80s. The new Cima shared the Y32 platform and its new multilink IRS, but was available with a V8 and its own sheetmetal, making it a deadly rival for the attention of Nissan aficionados. After all, if you’re going to buy a big car, why not go all the way?

The twin Cedric / Gloria nameplate itself was kind of broken, too. The wagon was stuck on the live axle Y30 generation and the standard Y31 formal saloon stayed on even after the Y32 appeared, turning the range into a bit of a confusing mess. The Y32 was therefore repositioned as a high-trim luxury hardtop – though it was now a “pillared hardtop,” i.e. a four-door with frameless windows. The point of this exercise was to make the car appear distinctive, yet provide enough strength for the roof. It would take about a decade for this somewhat absurd notion to become irrelevant, but it was all the rage in the early ‘90s. Either through inertia or a lack of a plan B, the exact same set-up was repeated for the next generation Y33 (1995-99).

In essence, the Y32 Cedric / Gloria was available either as a “sporty” or a “luxury” car. The former were Gran Turismos, with quad headlamps and spoilers, the latter were the Broughams, with the Japanese equivalent of gingerbread (ginger rice?), I guess.

Peeking inside our feature car, a lower-trim Brougham, makes it seem like a tidy package, but not overwhelmingly luxurious. That makes sense, as you would want the really fancy grade cars to look more impressive by comparison. It seems that this did not pan out so well though, as the Y32 Brougham VIP was apparently a notoriously big bomb – the more expensive end of the range was utterly cannibalized by the Cima.

For the first time, 4-cyl. engines were unavailable on a new Cedric / Gloria. The lower-tier Broughams were available with the smaller 2-litre V6 and the 2.8 litre Diesel straight-6, all cars could be had with the 3-litre and only the higher grades and sporty ones got the turbocharged V6. Our feature car could have anything – the 2-litre V6 and the Diesel are the most likely, as getting a lower tax band would be the main reason for getting a lower-trim car like this.

The ‘90s were a slow-motion luxury car pile-up on the JDM, a mass extinction event. Mazda and Mitsubishi eventually gave up this segment by the late ‘90s / early ‘00s. The Toyota Crown and the Honda Legend managed to survive, not unscathed but still standing. For Nissan, the Y32’s lackluster sales did not kill the twin nameplate outright, but it certainly signified the beginning of the end. The Cedric / Gloria stopped evolving after the Y34 in 1999 (a.k.a the Infiniti M45) and eventually disappeared, alongside the Cima and the President, as part of the great nameplate cull of the Ghosn era. The Fuga (a.k.a Infiniti M and Q70) had arrived, becoming the one-size-fits-all big RWD Nissan. Rational? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.