When the high Yen drove Nissan out of Japan to Thailand, and to importing their Nissan March (elsewhere known as the Micra) from the Land of Smiles back to the Land of the Rising Sun, many thought this a daring, maybe even suicidal experiment. Will the notoriously nitpicky Nipponese buyer buy it? Or will “the first move by a Japanese carmaker to export a mainstay model to the home market,” as The Nikkei [sub] called it, be a resounding dud? Either the Japanese are changing, or Nissan pulled-off the impossible.
“Worries that Japanese drivers might be turned off by cars made in Thailand proved unfounded,” reports The Nikkei [sub] now. As a matter of fact, the Thai model is better than the Japanese one. It received 20,000 orders in the first month and a half after its release, five times the monthly target. The new one gets 30 percent better mileage than the previous one. At the same time, its price is about the same as its predecessor. Value-conscious Japanese are flocking to the car.
“We use only one blueprint for the new March subcompact car, which we sell in 160 countries and regions in the world,” said a senior official of Nissan. Early next year, Nissan will start making a March/Micra hatchback in Mexico. A sedan and a MPV will follow by 2013.
But back to Japan. So what is it? Has Nissan mastered the art of making cars in low cost country that pass the scrutiny of the finicky Japanese customer? Or is deflationary Japan going downmarket, as the invasion of Tokyo’s fashion-forward Harajuku district by budget labels from H&M, Uniqlo, Topshop, Gap, Zara and Forever 21 attests? Maybe both.