NISSAN CARS, ELECTRIC CARS AND OVERSEAS OPERATIONS

NISSAN CARS

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Nissan concept car
Nissan makes 32 different cars. It had two of the top ten bestselling cars in Japan in 2004. That year the Nissan Cube was the third best-selling car in Japan for the second year in a row, selling 114,563 units. In 2002 the March was third bestselling car in Japan, with sales of 139,332 units. The Cube was 9th that year with sales of 75,215 units. The Cube is spacious small that looks like its name. The March was introduced with great fanfare to shake up the small car market.

One of the top rated cars in 10 categories rated by Consumers Reports in 2010 was a Nissan. The Nissan Maxima has been Nissan's flagship sedan since the 1980s in the United States. It was consistently ranked a Consumer Report best buy. In 2008, two of the ten most fuel efficient vehicles in the United States were Nissans: 3) Nissan Altima hybrid (34.1 miles per gallon); and 10)Nissan Versa (28.25 miles per gallon)

In the United States, Altimas has been a huge hit for Nissan. Nissan also has done well with the 350Z and Murani SUV. The Titan truck and Quest minivan have sold poorly.

Infiniti is Nissan's luxury car. Among the gas guzzlers that Nissan produces are Titan pick-up, and Pathfinder Armada SUV.

New Nissan Cars

In Mid-2002, Nissan introduced the 350 Z sports car. A reincarnation of the Z sports cars that were discontinued in 1996, it sold for under $30,000, had 260 horsepower engine and went from 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds. It looked sort of like a sleeker version of new VW bug and got good reviews from car critics.

In 2009, Nissan launched the GT-R, a high performance car with the comfort and drivability of a top-end Mercedes and the performance and speed of the fastest Porches It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 second, faster than a Porsche GT3. Its base price is around $80,000. critics

The GT-R was named Motor Trend Car of the Year in 2008 and Performance Car of the Year by the World Car Steering Committee in 2009. Mtor Trend’s editors wrote, “This technologically- advanced coupe delivers a level f performance, handling, and efficiency that rivals the world; best-known supercars, at a fraction of the price.”

The sixth generation Fairlead Z, unveiled in November 2008, had a sleek, modernist sports car look. Buyers can choose between the world’s first six-speed manual transmission with synchronized rev control or a newly-developed seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.

Nissan Alternative Cars

Nissan was late in developing hybrid cars because it CEO Carlos Ghosn believed they were money losers. Nissan released a hybrid Altima in 2006 with Toyota parts and technology. The same year it ended its hybrid tie-up with Toyota so it could develop its own hybrid technology---using lithium-ion batters rather the nickel-hydrogen ones used by Toyota and Honda---available on vehicles sold in 2010.

Nissan has developed what it calls a “collision-free” vehicle. It has “back-up collision” sensors which detect objects and apply the brakes when an object is directed and “side collision prevention” which activates a yawing mechanism if a vehicle is detected to close behind during a lane change. Nissan has also developed a concept car with a robotic head on the dashboard that can sense a driver’s facial expressions to determine mod and conduct an appropriate conversation.

Nissan and Renault have developed fuel cell cars using the Toyota, GM and Exxon standard. In 2003, Nissan began leasing X-Trail fuel-cell with a lithium-ion battery.

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GT-R

Nissan Electric Cars

Nissan insist that the real money is in electric cars. It hopes to introduce an all-electric car with no emissions in 2010 and sell them globally by 2012---turning a profit quickly. Nissan plans to introduce different models for different regions at competitive, affordable prices.

Nissan is developing a zero-emission electric car made with smaller, lighter next-generation batteries using lithium ion technology like that used in laptop batteries. It has developed a plug on hybrid that can be plugged into an ordinary electric outlet at a person’s home.

In August 2008, Nissan unveiled prototypes for an all-electric car and a gas-electric hybrid that it planned to begin selling in the United States in 2010. The Hypermini EV is a two seat electric car up to aimed for the American market that gets 100 miles on a single charge.

Nissan makes lithium ion batteries with NEC in Japan. Nissan is investing $700 million in battery plants in Britain and Portugal to make batteries for electric cars. It received a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. government to modify its Smyrna, Tennessee plant to produce electric vehicles and batteries to power them with production beginning in 2012.

Nissan electric cars have a lithium battery under the floorboards so the amount of space inside the car is not compromised. The breaking system recharges the battery so a range of 160 kilometers can be achieved.

Nissan plans to introduce its electric vehicles in Japan and the United States in late 2010 and begin marketing them globally in 2012. Ghosn thinks customers will need some time to adopt electric cars and that gasoline-powered cars will continue to dominate the market for many years to come. He has predicted that electric cars will only have about 10 percent share of the car market in 2020.

Nissan also plans to introduce a fully electric Infinity luxury car.

The Land Glider is a concept electric car that tilts at a 17 degree angle when is goes around sharp curves using wheel segments that move separately from the car body.

Nissan Leaf Electric Car

Nissan began selling its “100-percent zero-emission” five-seat Leaf electric car in December 2010 for ¥3.76 million, with the price coming down to ¥2.99 million when an expected state subsidy of ¥770,000 is tacked on. According to Nissan projections if the car is driven 1,000 kilometers a month it would pay for itself over six years with electricity charges adding up to ¥86,000 as opposed to ¥580,000 that would spent on gasoline for a gas-powered car. Powered by a lithium ion The Leaf can reach speed of 140 kph and travel 200 kilometers on a single charge. Using a 200 volt charger it takes eight hours to charge. It has no tailpipe and is charged with a device at the nose of the car. Among its gee-whiz features are air conditioning and other devices that can be turned on with a cell phone and a navigation system that shows the nearest charging station.

The Leaf is considerably cheaper than the Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and is expected to set off a price war in the electric vehicle market. When Nissan announced the price of the Leaf, Mitsubishi called an emergency meeting and decided to lower the cost of the i-MiEV by ¥619,000 to ¥ 3.98 million. With a ¥1.14 million subsidy tacked the car world cost ¥2.84 million, less than the Leaf.

The Leaf is produced at Nissan’s Opama plan in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. Production of vehicle will start in Syrna Tennessee in late 2012 and Sunderland, England in early 2013. They will produce 150,000 and 50,000 vehicles respectively.

The Leaf electric car was unveiled to the public at the Tokyo Auto Show in October 2009. A hatchback that produces zero emissions, it will go on sale in Japan, Europe and the United States in 2010.

In December 2011, The Nissan Leaf was chosen Car of the Year Japan at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A committee comprising mainly auto magazine editors selected the Leaf, the first electric car chosen since the award was established in 1980. This is the first time a Nissan car has won the award since its March won in 1992. Nissan was rated highly for its development of practical electric vehicles and its efforts in popularizing electric vehicles by investing in charging facilities. Toshiyuki Shiga, Nissan's chief operating officer, said: "We had a hard time in mass-producing electric vehicles because we weren't set up for it. Getting the award is great encouragement for us." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 5, 2011]

Nissan Brings Back the Datsun Brand in Overseas Markets

In March 2012, AFP reported: “Three decades after sidelining Datsun, Japan's Nissan is dusting off the brand to tap emerging markets, a move sure to stir up nostalgia among fans of the low-cost, fuel-efficient cars. Analysts said the plan to sell Datsuns in Indonesia, Russia and India would help the auto giant take on fierce competition in those markets without hurting its existing brands or spending time and money on creating a new one. 'Reviving the Datsun brand is better than creating a new brand as the old Datsun cars are still there and recognisable by some people,' said Mr Kota Yuzawa, an auto analyst at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo. [Source: AFP, March 25, 2012]

“Ghosn said Datsun would be a 'global brand' alongside Nissan-branded cars and its luxury line Infiniti, although there are no immediate plans to sell it in Japan or other mature markets. 'Datsun is part of our history. It was synonymous with affordable and reliable cars,' Mr Ghosn said in Jakarta. 'With the return of Datsun, we want to add modernity to it, with a new level of quality, like a high fuel economy.'

Carmakers have released models targeting specific markets before, but Nissan's revival of a shelved brand for emerging economies is unprecedented among Japanese automakers, analysts said. Nissan would not reveal prices or details of the models it will sell from 2014, but the new Datsun may cost as little as 500,000 yen (S$7,600), with most parts sourced locally, the Nikkei business daily reported. Nissan said it was aiming to make Datsun eventually account for about half of its total sales in each market, the company spokesman said. [Ibid]

“Nissan's move underscores the growing importance of emerging economies, a key battlefield among global carmakers amid stagnating growth in developed markets. It reflects the importance of emerging markets not only for Japanese automakers but for all kinds of industries,' said Mr Yusuke Ichikara, economist at Mizuho Research Institute. The push is also part of a wider trend among Japanese companies which have taken advantage of the yen's strength in recent years to diversify their business and expand global operations. [Ibid]

Nissan in the United States

Nissan is the sixth largest automaker in the United States. It has a 4.8 percent market share in 2003, up from 4.4 in 2002.

Nissan has two plants---one in Smyrna, Tennessee and another in Canton Mississippi---and has 16,000 workers in the United States. A few years ago the company moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to Franklin Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.

Nissan began making cars in the United States at the Smyrna plant in 1983. This plant is now the largest automobile factory n the United States. Consistently ranked as the No. 1 most efficient car plant in North America, it covers an area of 5.1 million square feet and has a capacity of 450,000 cars and compact trucks a year. The Canton plant is no slouch either. It cost $1.4 billion

Cars produced at the Smyrna plant include the Altima, Sentra and Frontier. The Canton plant produces Quest minivans and Titan and Armada pick up trucks Nissan has long been known for its quality small pick up trucks. It recently entered the full-size pick-up truck market in the United States.

Nissan made a deal with Chrysler in which Nissan would supply Chrysler with small cars in Exchange for Chrysler helping Nissan made a pick up truck. The deal came under review as both companies struggles in economic crisis and was scrapped in 2009. There was some discussion in 2006 of a tie up between GM, Nissan and Renault but the proposal was ultimately rejected. In September 2010, Dow Jones News wire ran reports that Ghosn was keen for a tie between Nissan, Renault and GM. He told the French daily LeMonde, “I think there are still plenty of things to do with GM---there are a lot of synergies.”

Nissan Wins Bid for New York's Iconic Yellow Cabs

In May 2011 Nissan won a 10-year contract to build the next generation of New York's iconic yellow taxis, based on its NV200 minivan model. Nissan beat Turkish manufacturer Karsan Otomotiv and U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co for a deal city officials estimated at around $1 billion. [Source: Reuters, Nick Carey, May 3, 2011]

The NV200 was picked on the basis of safety, comfort and eco-friendliness. Ghosn emphasized the vehicle is designed to provide convenience for passengers. The model is equipped with an electric outlet and USB port for mobile phones. "It's going to be the safest, most comfortable, and most convenient cab the City has ever had," New York mayor Michael Bloomberg told Reuters. "We started this process to leverage our taxi industry's purchasing power to get the highest quality taxi," he noted. "The new taxis will be custom-designed to meet the specific demands of carrying 600,000 passengers a day." [Ibid]

In April 2012, Nissan showed the media the first taxi model of its fuel-efficient NV200 minivan to be exclusively supplied for the yellow cab fleet in New York.The fleet comprises about 13,000 vehicles from nine makers, carrying about 600,000 passengers a day.The fleet will be gradually switched to the NV200 from the end of 2013. Nissan plans to supply up to 30,000 units of the model over 10 years. Each has a price tag of about 29,700 dollars. It's very important for Nissan," Carlos Tavares, Nissan's chairman in the Americas, told Reuters. "We deserve a better presence (in the United States) than we have today despite progress in recent years." Officials at Nissan, which also provides taxis for Tokyo and Mexico City, said they also expected a marketing boost for the brand from television and film exposure. [Ibid]

Nick Carey of Reuters wrote: “Nissan will be able to convert the NV200, which will get 25 miles per gallon, to run on electric-only engines beginning in 2017. The city will test the use of electric-engines in taxis using six electric Nissan Leafs, provided free to the city as part of the deal. The NV200 is the first cab to pass federal crash testing with the taxi partition and taxi equipment installed. The "Taxi of Tomorrow" will replace the 16 models now on New York's streets. The 10-year contract is expected to begin in 2013, when older models will begin to be phased out over the next three to five years.” [Ibid]

Nissan Deals and Overseas Operations

In an effort to cut costs by 15 percent Nissan is look abroad, primarily from China, for parts and labor. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Nissan has shifted its focus to emerging markets. For example, it remodeled its March vehicles to better suit tastes in emerging economies and transferred production to Thailand. In China, Nissan was the top Japanese automaker in 2011 in terms of vehicles sold. Nissan's sales there jumped 21.9 percent from the previous year to about 1.25 million units, its highest ever.” [Source: Hajime Yamagishi, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 30, 2012]

Nissan makes a number of vehicles at its factory in Sunderland, England. An SUV---the Dualis---is sold in Japan. Nissan also has a plant in Barcelona, Spain. Nissan hoped to boost sales with the introduction of the Pino minicar and van on late 2006 and 2007. The car, built by Suzuki, sells for just over $7,000. Nissan has a plant in Egypt.

Asia - excluding Japan - accounted for nearly one-quarter of sales in 2011, including Indonesia and India. Nissan is expanding aggressively in China, India and Thailand. It is hoping to make a profit in the small car market with it new “V” small platform which it hopes to use on small cars made in China, India and Thailand. Nissan has a factory in Thailand that produces 200,000 low-cost vehicles a year. It has negotiated with Proton, an automaker with ties to the Malaysian government.

In April 2010, Nissan-Renault announced a cross-sharing deal with Germany’s Daimler Benz--- making it the third largest automobile group after Volkswagen-Suzuki and Toyota---in which the carmaker would share parts, develop new technologies together, provide access in market they’re strong in and cooperate in other ways but not jointly create vehicles and market them together as Daimler and Chrysler did. In the deal the companies obtained small stakes in their partners. Nissan’s strong points are its electric engine technology and penetration in developing nations. Daimler will supply Nissan with advanced diesel and gasoline engines for its Infiniti luxury cars and provide better access to markets in Europe. In September 2011, Nissan announced it would use it would use Daimler platforms for some of its Infiniti vehicles.

Nissan in China

Nissan makes cars in China with Dongfeng Motors. Beginning production in 2003, it produces Teana and Tiida sedans and is trying to cut costs in Japan by using Chinese suppliers to produce parts. The Tiida is produced with Dongfend in Wuhan in central China and cost about 20 percent less to build there than in Japan. Nissan has plans to build Paladin SUVs through the joint venture Zhengzhou Nissan Automobile. Nissan sells its Infiniti brand in China.

In 2010, Nissan sold 1.02 million vehicles in China.

In March 2011, Nissan announced plans to double production in China to 2 million vehicles a year. Nissan has three factories in China . It will take a couple years to realize its production goal.

In July 2011, Nissan and its Chinese partner Dongfeng Motors announced they would invest $8 billion over the next five years and launch about 30 vehicle models, aiming to increase sales from 1.3 million vehicles in 2010 to 2.3 million vehicles in 2010.

See China

New Nissan Plants in Mexico and Indonesia

In January 2012, USA TODAY reported: “Nissan Motor says it will build a $2 billion plant in Mexico to manufacture small cars, some or all of them for the U.S. market. The new plant will be at Aguascalientes, Mexico, near other Nissan facilities, and is to begin production in late 2013. Nissan would not identify what U.S. models it will build there. The Japanese automaker already makes small cars for the U.S. market in Mexico -- Sentra and Versa -- and exports most of its Mexican production. Nissan sees growth in demand in North and South America for small cars, and the new plant is to handle that. The factory will have a capacity of 175,000 units per year and will create 3,000 jobs in Mexico, the car company says. [Source: James R. Healey, USA TODAY, January 26, 2012]

In March 2012, AFP reported: “Nissan has said it will invest US$400 million in a plant in Indonesia - which saw vehicle sales jump around 16 per cent last year - to more than double production capacity from 100,000 to 250,000 vehicles a year by 2014. The move will mean Nissan will be able to make more cars in Southeast Asia's biggest economy than its main rival Toyota. [Ibid]

Renault-Nissan to Take Control of Russian Automaker

In May 2012, Reuters reported: “The Renault-Nissan alliance signed a long-awaited, tentative agreement to take control of Russia’s largest automaker, Avtovaz, as it seeks growth in fast-growing markets outside a sluggish Western Europe. Under a nonbinding preliminary agreement, Renault-Nissan would hold 67 percent of a joint venture with a Russian state-controlled company, Russian Technologies, to own 74.5 percent of Avtovaz. That transaction would give the French-Japanese alliance 50.01 percent of Avtovaz, which makes the Lada. Renault would invest $300 million in the deal and Nissan $450 million. [Source: [Source: Reuters, May 3, 2012]

“Today’s memorandum is the latest step in an expanding collaboration that helps modernize the leader of Russia’s auto industry,” said Ghosn The companies hope to sign a definitive deal by year-end, with the transaction expected to be completed by 2014, by which time the venture would buy the entire Avtovaz stake held by Troika Dialog, a Russian investment company. [Ibid]

“In 2011, Nissan, Renault and AvtoVaZ logged total sales of 8.03 million units, eclipsing Toyota's sales. Renault initially bought 25 percent of Avtovaz in 2008 for $1 billion. The Russian government bailed out Avtovaz when its sales plunged during the global financial crisis. Russia, where the alliance has a 33 percent market share, is the alliance’s third-largest market, after China and the United States. The country is on track to become Europe’s biggest car market by the middle of the decade as rising incomes and a surge in consumer spending lead consumers to car showrooms. Car sales are expected to grow about 6 percent in Russia this year to 2.8 million vehicles and reach 4 million by 2015, even as the European market contracts. [Ibid]

Nissan opened its first plant in Russia in June 2009. Russia was among Nissan's top foreign markets in 2011, though still far below China and the United States.

Image Sources: Nissan and Wikipedia

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated October 2012

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