It was a pretty strange experience to be overseas, attending the launch of a new car, and to read in the local paper that there’s chance of civil war.
But that, I suppose, is the way things are going to be as the auto industry takes globalisation to its logical conclusion.
Last time a Nissan Micra was launched, it was being made in Sunderland. This time around the first factory to begin making the Micra was in Thailand. So I embarked on a journey from Battersea to Phuket that took twenty hours door to door.
The Micra will also be built at factories in China, India and Mexico as Nissan attempts to push into 160 global markets and exploit the boom for affordable small cars.
Being able to sell the same car to both the emerging middle classes in Thailand and India and the entry-level European motorist is a very tricky task.
The average Thai might spend 18 months wages on a Micra. The average person from Tadcaster might only have to spend four or five months’ wages. Expectations will be different on different sides of the globe, even though the Thai and Tadcaster Micras are 95 per cent common.
One of the most interesting aspects of the global Micra, is the way Nissan has moved to eliminate the problems of shifting global exchange rates.
It will do this by not only building the Micra in the market where it will be sold, but also by ensuring that the local content of the Micra is over 90 per cent. That’s a sure-fire way of avoiding importing expensive components, which are also prone to exchange rate shifts.
Nissan hasn’t been forthcoming on the likely price of UK-bound (and Indian-built) Micras, but one source said that it would be very competitively priced.
It should be, not because it the engineering is duff (the new V-platform is clever and light) or the quality is only average (the Micra I drove was tightly and neatly assembled) but because the Micra’s friendly design language won’t cut it with the upmarket industrial design of, say the new Polo.
However, if Micra pricing can match the £8000 or so demanded for more cramped city cars such as the Citroen C1 and Hyundai i10, Nissan might have found a formula that can be a success in both developing and mature markets.