By Steve & Tamami Laser, with Nahoko Osuka reporting from Japan
First-time visitors to Japan are often amazed at the wide variety of vehicles on the streets. The smallest ones, distinguished by their yellow license plates, are called “Kei cars” or mini vehicles.
Kei cars offer several advantages. Their diminutive size makes them easy to park. Many have sliding side doors for ease of entry and exit. They save owners money in several ways including their lower retail prices and reduced operating expenses versus larger cars.
Disadvantages include government-mandated restrictions on engine displacement to a maximum 660cc (0.66L), with exterior dimensions limited to 11.2 feet (3.4m) long and 4.8 feet (1.48m) wide. Height is a more generous 6.6 feet (2.0m) making taller Kei cars more popular.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, and their joint venture NMKV Co., Ltd. have announced an agreement to continue their joint venture Kei car project by developing the next generation of minicar models.
Nissan says it will be more deeply involved in development operations, such as design development and testing. In addition to its product planning and project development roles, NMKV will strengthen its management capabilities by adding a new department to enhance collaboration with engineering and manufacturing functions, says Nissan. Vehicle production is planned to continue at Mitsubishi’s Mizushima Plant.
Nissan and Mitsubishi established NMKV in June 2011 to specialize in planning and development of minicars. Their jointly-developed Nissan Dayz (above) and Mitsubishi eK Wagon were launched in June 2013, followed by the Nissan Dayz Roox (below) and the Mitsubishi eK Space in February 2014.
By the end of September 2015, total sales of vehicles produced under the joint project reached 500,000 units, a testament to the success of the collaboration. This new agreement takes the partnership to a higher level.
“Nissan’s deeper involvement in development operations for next generation minicars will enable the easier application of advanced safety and eco-friendly technologies in larger vehicles,” said Hiroto Saikawa, Nissan CCO. “This new opportunity will enable us to deliver even more competitive vehicles to consumers by enhancing our product and lineup, by strengthening our partnership and combining the expertise of both companies.”
“For Mitsubishi, minicars are a key segment that accounts for more than half of our total sales in Japan,” said Mitsubishi President and COO Tetsuro Aikawa. “By combining each other’s strengths through NMKV, we will continue to introduce attractive products to the market. Producing the new models at our Mizushima Plant, after the current model production ends, will help us further accelerate the improvement activities on which the three companies have been working together in the areas of production costs, efficiency and quality, and this will lead us to introduce more competitive products.”
NMKV President and CEO Junichi Endo said, “This new agreement shows that our efforts are making steady progress and thus the collaboration will further deepen. We are taking the lead in this project by combining Mitsubishi’s know-how in minicar development and manufacturing with Nissan’s technologies.”
In addition, Nissan says the planning and development of a minicar EV is in progress through the collaboration. The announcement of vehicle details and launch timing of the EV and other next-generation minicars will be made at a later time.
Reading between the lines, we’re wondering if Nissan’s new Teatro for Dayz (above), a futuristic EV concept set to premiere at the Tokyo Motor Show might provide more clues about the upcoming joint venture’s EV?
News source and photos courtesy Nissan Motor Company
Story © 2015 CarNichiWa.com