It shouldn’t really surprise anybody that Mitsubishi finally got taken over by a larger auto maker, the brand was simply too small and too irrelevant in the world’s most important markets to survive on its own. But the way Nissan played its cards was a stroke of genius, whether intentional from the get-go or just improvising on the opportunity at hand. Mitsubishi has supplied its bigger rival with Japanese market minicars (“Kei” cars, as described in my article on the Japanese auto culture) since 2011 and when Nissan was testing the pre-production next generation cars they found some irregularities with the reported fuel economy figures. This led to a public scandal in which Mitsubishi had to admit some of its engineers had been using a trick with tire pressures for the past 25 years to overstate fuel economy of its Japanese market cars (and perhaps some cars sold outside of Japan), causing Mitsubishi’s share prices on the stock market to almost halve. Nissan then scooped up 34% of these shares at the heavily discounted price for a controlling stake to become Mitsubishi’s largest single shareholder. It’ll take a few months to complete the takeover, and there are still quite a few issues to be handled before the deal will be finalized, but looking ahead: what will Nissan do with Mitsubishi? [Read more…]
In our series of car cultures around the world/international street scenes, after Morocco, Africa and Monaco, Europe we’re going to yet another entirely different car culture: that of Japan. And the streets of Japan are filled with models you won’t find anywhere else, it’s an entirely different sight from the rest of the world.
For starters, there are the dozens of “Kei” cars and trucks. These are tiny cars that get certain tax benefits in Japan, but are limited in size, engine displacement and power: 3,4 meters in length (11.2 ft) and no more than 1,48 meters wide (4.9 ft), with an engine of 660 cc pumping out 47 kW (64 hp) max. More than 40% of the new cars sold in Japan falls within these limits, which calculates to more than 2 million Kei cars a year, which is more than all the cars sold in France in a year. Some of these vehicles have been exported to Europe and other countries, although they mostly featured larger engines for export markets. The only foreign manufacturer to ever have sold a Kei car in Japan was Smart, which in the early 2000’s made a special version of its Fortwo to fall within these limits, but it sold poorly. [Read more…]