Nissan lags behind its Japanese counterparts Honda and Toyota in the race to produce environmentally friendly cars. These two automakers have already succeeded in the U.S. auto market by selling their hybrid cars. Toyota Prius is a strong seller, as is the Honda Civic Hybrid.
For Nissan, however, they are focused on producing cars with a variator or speedless transmission. The use of this gearbox reduces the fuel consumption of the vehicles it has equipped. This means that greenhouse gases are also decreasing. While Nissan’s variety in its own way protects the environment, car buyers consider hybrid cars the best choice.
In response, Nissan will compete with automakers producing hybrid cars. To develop an environmentally friendly car that could compete with the Prius and Civic Hybrid, Nissan has built a technical center where hybrid technologies will be developed. The newly opened new facility is located in Atsugi, a town in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. At this plant, Nissan is developing lithium-ion batteries that will be used in the production of hybrid cars.
Hybrid cars currently use nickel-metal-band batteries. Lithium-ion batteries developed by Nissan for the automotive industry are considered to be the best choice because they weigh less and have more power. Some of the tests carried out by technicians at the plant cause the vibration of batteries to simulate driving. They are also tested at extreme temperatures. This is to ensure that they do not fail during cold winter trips and do not explode when the car becomes too hot.
The development of batteries is a step towards the mass production of environmentally friendly Nissan cars, which is seen as a way to bring the company closer to Honda and Toyota in terms of sales.
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, attends the opening of the technology center. “Whether it is possible to deliver products with user-friendly technologies in a timely manner will determine the winners and losers,” Ghosn said at the opening ceremony. Although the company has the resources to invest in a technology center, it is still held back by a near collapse over the past decade.
In 2006, Honda also overtook Nissan to become Japan’s second-largest automaker. The reason for Nissan’s bad year is the lack of car models in their lineup. They have also been criticized for not producing hybrid cars. Although the company was falsely accused of this because its variators reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is still aggressively trying to sell a large number of Nissan cars with variators. In addition to the variator, Nissan also uses Nissan exhaust recycling valves to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Opening a new plant, Ghosn confirmed that he has no plans to add a new member to the Nissan-Renault alliance. “We don’t talk to anyone,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a good time.” He said that while there are suggestions that Nissan should work with other automakers besides Renault to make more technological progress, they won’t do so because Nissan will develop its new technology. The new plant is concrete proof that Nissan can develop its own technology.
While it is clear that Nissan is taking steps to gain momentum against Toyota and Honda, industry experts say Nissan will fight hard, although it will definitely not lose. Precisely because Honda and Toyota are fueled by their competitiveness, they are constantly superior to each other in terms of developing new automotive technologies. Toyota is known for its leadership in hybrid technology, and Honda has released the first fuel cell car approved by the U.S. government. On Nissan’s side they will not only produce more hybrid cars, but have also announced that they will produce diesel cars for the U.S. auto market.
The popularity of diesel engines in Europe and the fact that Renault is based in France means that Toyota will be able to enlist the help of its alliance partner to develop the diesel Nissan Maxima, which will be released in 2010.