Carlos Ghosn, the electric car and the zero-star safety Nissan Tsuru
In Europe, the US and Japan Nissan has a reputation for innovation, environmentalism and safety. The company’s CEO, Carlos Ghosn, is one of the industry’s superstars and an evangelist for the electric car and for new technologies to prevent crashes. Youtube one of his talks at Stanford or Princeton or watch Revenge of the Electric Car and you’ll understand why he’s one of the most respected businessmen on the planet.
Ghosn is a trailblazer who loves innovation, always looking ahead, never standing still. Without him, the loss-leading Nissan Leaf electric car wouldn’t be out there, creating a market for zero-emission vehicles. The only problem is that he’s also responsible for Nissan continuing to sell cars like the Nissan Tsuru for Mexico.
Latin NCAP just crash-tested the Tsuru. There are some pretty bad cars on the road in Latin America, but the Tsuru ranks among the least safe. The crash test video shows just how bad.
In the test, the Nissan Tsuru’s structure comes close to complete collapse and Latin NCAP’s engineers reported that loadings on the dummies showed a strong risk of fatal injuries. The protection for any children sat in the back is even worse – the Nissan Tsuru doesn’t even have a three-point seatbelt so it’s impossible to fit a car seat and transport a baby safely.
Why keep the Tsuru in production? It’s a cash-cow. The Tsuru has been Mexico’s best-selling vehicle for years (1997-2011) and still comes top some months. The car dates back to the early 1990s, so any R&D and manufacturing investment has long since been recovered. And so, despite the fact that one in every four cars sold in Mexico is a Nissan, the company doesn’t want to give it up. The Tsuru sits in showrooms next to the Nissan Leaf electric car.
Too much innovation, particularly in the car industry, is targeted at consumers in Western markets. For emerging markets, companies try to buy market share with lowest common denominator vehicles
Safer to walk
Mexico is a country where only a quarter of the population has their own car (275 per 1,000 inhabitants). Around 17,000 people die each year on the country’s roads. According to the WHO, 88% of the people killed are sat inside a vehicle.
Car companies’ strategies don’t help. Too much innovation is targeted at consumers in Western markets. In emerging markets, companies buy market share with lowest common denominator vehicles. No catalytic converters, no airbags, no seatbelts for kids and crash structures that leave bread-winners dead or disabled.
It’s brilliant that Nissan is being so bold with its electric car and crash prevention technologies. It’s great that Nissan is resurrecting its Datsun brand for India. The Datsuns promise to be brand new platforms.
It’s just bizarre that Mexican consumers can walk into a Nissan dealership and face a choice that includes the Leaf electric car and the Tsuru. The Tsuru is as much a Nissan as the Leaf. It just needs a Carlos Ghosn to turn the situation around.