Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Nissan Cedric Gran Turismo ads helped make the Y31 cool

The world lost two legendary musicians recently when YMO founders Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away in January and March, respectively. The Yellow Magic Orchestra was one of the first modern Japanese bands to break through internationally and was at the forefront of the electronic music movement. Both went on to tremendous success in Japan and became solo megastars. Sakamoto passed away on March 28, 2023. To commemorate, let’s remember when he was the face of the then-new Nissan Cedric Gran Turismo.

The seventh generation Nissan Cedric was introduced on June 19, 1987. As one of Nissan’s oldest nameplates (dating back to 1960) the rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan was a stalwart of the Nissan lineup, a rival to the Toyota Crown for three decades. Both had established reputations as premium saloons, but the Crown was seen as the safer and more dignified bet. To set the Cedric apart Nissan retaliated with a sporty variant called the Cedric Gran Turismo, or Guratsu for short.

According to Nissan’s advertising manager at the time, they wanted a spokesperson that was “revered like a god” by customers. They chose Ryuichi Sakamoto, the YMO vocalist who had upended the guitar-strumming musical establishment with his electronic keyboard. After YMO, Sakamoto became a sought after composer, becoming the first Japanese to win a Grammy, Golden Globe, and Oscar for his score to The Last Emperor, whose music he co-wrote with Talking Heads’ David Byrne and composer Cong Su. You can almost hear the influence of the movie score in “Floating Away”, the music Sakamoto wrote for the Cedric.

That wasn’t the only Sakamoto piece to be featured in a Cedric commercial. Another series of ads featured the song “Risky” from his album Neo Geo. If the deep vocals ring a bell, that’s because they were supplied by James Newell Osterberg Jr., better known as Iggy Pop. Perhaps the perpetually half-naked Mr Pop was not quite the image Nissan had in mind for a 3.5 million yen luxury car, because despite the punk legend’s singing, Sakamoto still provided the face and the narration for the Cedric.

It’s impossible to summarize Sakamoto’s work on a car blog, but suffice it to say his reputation as a composer was world famous. His works include everything from video game soundtracks to the score of the Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony.

As for the Crown vs Cedric rivalry, the Y31 Cedric Gran Turismo may not have toppled the Crown in terms of staying power, but it’s fondly remembered as being cooler and more desirable to a younger audience. It’s hard to say definitively whether Sakamoto’s presence had anything to do with that. But when compared to ads for the regular Cedric and Crown of the same era, one can see how the Gratsu commercials felt a bit more exciting and youthful. Rest in peace.

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3 Responses to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Nissan Cedric Gran Turismo ads helped make the Y31 cool

  1. MikeRL411 says:

    No comment on the rip off Continental device.

  2. Nigel says:

    This car is always in my top ten and is currently on my bench in 1/24 (an Aoshima kit).
    RIP Ryuichi Sakamoto.

  3. f31roger says:

    RIP Sakamoto-san.

    Y31 is a car that I would love to have one day. A lot of my F31 friends end up with Y31s.

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