By on September 12, 2010

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.

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14 Comments on “Has Nissan Mastered The Impossible? Or Is Japan Just Going Cheap?...”

  • avatar

    Bertel – Welcome to the 2000-teens.  It looks like the growing income disparity between the lower middle class and up middle class folk isn’t just a US phenomenon.  The globalized trade model is in full swing.
    Nissan/Renault cheapo models, while uninspiring, do seem to be priced lower than other large players.

  • avatar

    This has been going on for a long time now. I remember when CostCo starting bringing in California rice en masse…

  • avatar

    American agricultural output should be boycotted by the world due to federal regulation that allows the USA agricultural industries to not pay over-time until an excess of 60 hours per 7 day work week has been exceeded.
    Go work under that blazing sun for that amount of time, often with no shade available for miles around and experience the fun, the thrills.
    Disheartening was observing young children and OLD folks working in those conditions.
    Heart-breaking was listening to the often multi-millionaire corporate farm owners ridicule and talk bad about those workers that made them their immense wealth.
    Mom was married to one. He laughed uproariously about the time during labor trouble via the United Farm Workers (UFW, Ceasar Cvavez’s group) was stiriking for higher wages.
    Assembled next to a field being harvested the strikers were peaceful attempting to encourage workers in the field to join the strikers.
    A local corporate farmer contacted an aerial crop sprayer and places an order.
    Powdered sulfur to be sprayed “here.”
    Along came the plane and the noxious compound filled the air and covered the men, the babies, the young and old and wimmenfolk.
    This ended the assembly that day.
    Har har har har har….. uproariously funny, right?
    Those infants and toddlers and grandmas and grandpas whose burning eyes and throats caused agony for awhile…….. well-deserved!!!!!!!!!!
    Har har har.  Commies deserved it, right?  That was back in the Cold War days and “Commie” was the buzz-word of choice.
    Though many have died since then the children of those farmers STILL talk of the event and most still laugh about it!!!!!!!!!!
    Har har har har har!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And folks wondered why I never sucked up to Mom’s hubby, who was son-less and married Mom when I was 21 and if I had sucked up, took an interest in golf (he was an AVID golfer) and kissed butt, I probably could have become a “family member.”
    But, I felt more kinmanship with the workers.
    I wonder if it is possible that auto buyers in Japan feel some sort of “fraternity” with the workers in Thailand?
    Japan did occupy the country in WW2 and was rather cruel to the populace.
    Ever watch the Bridge on the River Kwai?
    Any possibility that buying from locales that experienced barbarism under the jack-booted heels of the collective boots of the Greater East-Asia Co-prosperity Sphere has led to Japanese consumers to be more accepting of imported goods from occupied areas of old????
    Just thinking out “loud.”
    Better than being covered with sulfur dust.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, Dude…  Next time try decaf.

    • 0 avatar

      Silly me – I thought this was a website about cars…

    • 0 avatar

      Can you get me some of the stuff you’ve been smoking? Detroit’s pretty dry these days.
      From what I understand, vegetable and fruit growers are moving to mechanized pickers as fast as they can.
      Germany is one of Israel’s biggest trading partners. Plenty of Jews own German cars (I’ve owned a couple of VW buses myself). In light of the history of 1933-45, if Jews can do business with Germans, Thais can do business with Japanese.
      And that’s why I like cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Did you know you can create your own website and blog all day long about whatever you feel like? Sure beats taking up bandwidth on TTAC with your power to the workers rhetoric.
      Back to the car story, I though Honda was reimporting the Civic from the US. Is the notion of Thai assembly a taboo or the displacement of workers a problem?
      Having lived in Japan twice already I think consumers are less concerned about where a product comes from than how much it costs.

    • 0 avatar

      obbop: I just spent a couple of minutes at the link in your post, and must ask… the hell did you get there from a Nissan story?!

      P.S. I’ve heard that therapists in your neighborhood have pretty reasonable rates.

    • 0 avatar

      “Did you know you can create your own website and blog all day long about whatever you feel like? Sure beats taking up bandwidth on TTAC with your power to the workers rhetoric.”
      Don’t you all think you’re being a bit harsh?  Seeing members jump on one another when the line isn’t toed close enough is one of the many things that’s causing me to enjoy this site less and less.  Keeping a topic from being derailed is one thing.  Jumping down a guy’s throat for being a bit off-track is something else.

    • 0 avatar

      > American agricultural output should be boycotted by the world due to federal
      > regulationthat allows the USA agricultural industries to not pay over-time until
      > an excess of 60 hours per 7 day work week has been exceeded.

      What are the overtime rules for, say, Thailand?

      Anyway, farm work is seasonal, so what you’re talking about is a lot of work around harvest and maybe planting, not so much the rest of the time. When you’re harvesting, 60 hours is defined as a “normal” work week (actually it may be light) and thus no overtime. We’re not talking about 60 hours a week x 52 weeks a year.

      Also, something about cars.

  • avatar

    Where is Booth Babe today???

  • avatar

    Hey Ronnie you must be aware of one of the more common prejudiced stories about Jews, business (money) above all, even your mortal enemies.

  • avatar

    I thought the segue from one disparate topic to one related to Japanese buying non-Japan built cars was a…. sniff….  semi-creative method of tossing out one of many possibilities but……….
    Lambasted.  Ridiculed.  Such a lack of politically correct warm fuzziness that I am tempted to commence tossing out willy-nilly the various emotion-laden labels of BIGOT and Xenophobe and even the non-applicable but oft-used RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sob.  Sniff.

  • avatar

    … and now –

    Back to our originally scheduled programming:

    Japan HAS changed. The economy has been terrible for more than a decade now. I vist every year for a couple of weeks (Mrs. Lokki has family there), and the changes are startling when seen through the stroboscope of periodic visits.

    Brother-in-law used to buy a new car every two years. No more. No loss of income – change in social acceptability of an older car.  It used to be that cars that had been even scratched were virtually unsellable in the used car market. No more.  100 Yen ( Everything a Dollar) stores are everywhere now.

    Additionally, the car as status symbol seems to be fading. It used to be a very big deal to even have a car, and the cars were pampered. Constantly waxed, perpetually polished.  Now they’re no big deal, and most young people don’t want the expense of owning one.

    Finally, just as in the U.S. not a lot is actually manufactured in Japan any more. Most production has moved to China or Thailand et al.   Even that last bastion (as mentioned above) of only eating Japanese rice is starting to fail.

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