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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nissan Micra Gets Reboot - But The Boot In The US

For those of you wondering what the big difference is between Canadians and Americans, let me highlight it for you with the following:

Canadian: "Get off the car, eh?"
American: "Hey! Get off the car!"

A joke, but probably a realistic stereotype.

With das auto still on the brain, here's another way you can tell... Canadians will be able to drive the Nissan Micra, and the Americans will not.

That's not to say there is a prejudice against American's by Nissan—I'm sure Americans living in Canada can drive the car—but there may indeed be a prejudice by Americans against Nissan (and other Japanese automobile manufacturers).

First... after a 21-year hiatus from Nissan, the sub-compact Micra will be re-launched in Canada.

According to Nissan Canada president Christian Meunier, the Micra will be "tailored specifically for Canadians," with "an impressively low cost of ownership."

Although sparse on the details, Meuner did add that the vehicle will "change the automotive landscape" in Canada.

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a million times - that's hyperbole, to be sure. To be honest, every car changes a particular landscape just by virtue of its existence: I gas guzzle, therefore I am.

But the Micra... this is a tiny car. When it's called a sub-compact, that means it is smaller than a compact car... which puts it in the same league as those toy cars available only in Japan... those ones with the pastel colors that are only ever driven by women. "Driven for her pleasure" which is how I used to think around women.

As to why the Nissan Micra is being offered in Canada and not the U.S.... while it is true that American attitudes are still changing (for the past 50 years and counting) when it comes to acceptance of Japanese cars - probably due to Japanese automakers being smart enough to manufacture its cars in the US to create a sense of personal identity... Canada is far more accepting of driving foreign-made vehicles - mostly because we don't have a Canadian car company of our own. Not anymore - more on that below.

Even though Canada is currently the 11th-largest automobile manufacturer in the world (but down from 7th place three years ago), it's because it builds cars for foreign car companies... as such, there is no reason to purchase a car simply because it is a Canadian car.

Canadians can therefore feel guilt-free and purchase a vehicle simply because they want to... not because they are guilt-tripped into doing so.

Look... no one is arguing that a Corvette, Viper, Camaro et al aren't fine vehicles... but in the US, despite the presence of some NASCAR drivers actually driving Japanese frame cars, the general public still likes to be patriotic and 'Buy American'. I'm not saying it's good or bad - that's up to the individual countries and its populace.

But... it's nice to have choice and not have to follow the crowd because that is what everyone else is doing. Nazi Germany did that, and to a much lesser degree, Japan still does that... Canadians follow the US: The US sneezes and Canada gets a cold, which is why we are sometimes called America Jr... but truthfully we are not.

Not only do we have a medical system where no one is turned away because they lack money, it also won't bankrupt you when you do need it.

We also know more about the US than the US does plus we have a tiny bit of knowledge of Canada (maple syrup, hockey and bacon that may not be as good as regular bacon that I like to eat)... and we are slowly taking over the movie and television industry as you can't visually tell the difference between a Canuck and a Yank (Sorry Southerners... to a Canadian, you are all Yanks even though we know what you are thinking - we do... we're in your head).

But basically, because Canada is more open than the US when it comes to purchasing foreign objects d'art, foreign countries treat Canadians a bit better. I think.

It's why we get a sub-compact Nissan Micra... and a Chevy Corvette option.

And... in case you don't believe it, because sometimes it's hard for even me to fathom that Canada was a major nation of technological mastery with such things as the Avro Arrow aircraft (why I will never vote Conservative. Ever. ), we did have a number of automobile manufacturers.

By the way... Canada does have an excellent manufacturing and design core. Truly excellent. But just like after Canada killed the Avro Arrow project and then saw a brain-drain as NASA culled our best to kickstart the Apollo space missions... sometimes we have to go elsewhere to shine.

Anyhow... here's a list of defunct Canadian automakers... and aside from the obvious big names like Suzuki and Studebaker, I had only ever heard of the Bricklin.

Defunct Canadian Automakers:
Anyhow... because everyone knows that Canadians like value AND quality, Nissan Canada president Meunier continues: "Micra will provide Canadians with the unbeatable value, Japanese quality, European bold styling and fun driving experience that they deserve in a small car."

While Nissan moved away from its small car mantra that made it a popular in Canada, the automaker is looking to wade back into the supermini waters around the globe.

Nissan launched the tiny Versa Note, a smaller iteration of its Versa compact car, in 2012 to compete with offerings like the Honda Fit and Chevrolet Spark in North America. (I've never seen either car here in Canada, though I'm sure someone bought one.)

The automaker is also going back to its roots in emerging markets, re-launching its Datsun name in countries like India, Indonesia and Russia.

Summing up... Canada gets a neat little car with what we hope is super mileage and a great price and the US and actually, the rest of the world, doesn't. Thanks, Nissan. Thanks, Japan.

It better not be a lemon.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Photo above is the 2014 Nissan Micra. Photo courtesy Nissan  

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