Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Nissan’s hybrid conundrum

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NISSAN/ELECTRIC CARIf Carlos Ghosn were a politician, pundits might be accusing him of flip-flopping right about now.

After spending the last few years playing up the merits of zero-emission electric vehicles and knocking down the hybrid hype, the CEO of Nissan Motor appears to be back-pedalling, ever so slightly, on that stance.

The reason? Hybrids have become just too popular to ignore.

The trouble started when the Nikkei, Japan’s premier business daily, reported last month that Nissan was aiming to develop a hybrid system for small and mid-sized mass-market cars, with plans to roll one out in Japan in 2011.

If true, that would signal a change in course for Nissan, which has only announced plans so far to mount its in-house-developed hybrid system on high-end, rear-wheel-drive vehicles. The company declined to confirm or deny the report.

Hybrid, schmybrid – get on yer bike!

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BICYCLES/JAPAN

Can things get any worse for the car industry?

Just when you thought hybrid cars were all the rage in Japan, they’re being shoved aside for the environmental cachet by an even greener alternative: electric bicycles.

Motor-assisted “hybrid” bicycles are gaining traction thanks to a greying population and a growing interest in being green and healthy.

Mercedes? No thanks, I’ll take a hybrid

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VOLKSWAGEN-LAW/“I hope the next three months will be better for you than the last three,” Czech ambassador Jaromir Novotny told a gathering of Japanese car importers last month.

The way things are going, he’ll be hoping against hope.

In April, Japan introduced an “eco-car” tax incentive that has left all foreign car brands such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, neatly outside the fence of eligibility.

Toyota Prius: Will it live up to its name?

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When Honda‘s new Insight hybrid debuted in Japan last month, many journalists referred to it as the “Prius fighter”. Less than two months later, we’re talking about Toyota’s battle to come up with the “Insight fighter”. What gives?

In a word, it’s because Toyota has suddenly begun behaving like a follower — not a leader –in the hybrid field that it has owned for the last 12 years.AUTOSHOW/

Honda’s Insight takes on Prius

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It took almost 10 years, but Honda may finally have a hybrid hit on its hands this time.

The five-seater Insight went on sale this month in Japan ahead of other markets and orders have already climbed to 15,000, triple the number Honda hoped to sell on average in a month here.

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