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The present and future of compact cars - on the streets of Takamatsu in Kagawa, Japan's smallest prefecture.

This NTM report, which uncovers the value and appeal unique to compact cars, is brought to you from Takamatsu City, the prefectural capital of Kagawa, Japan's smallest prefecture.

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A car suitable for the area.

Doi: The kinds of cars that are popular vary greatly from country to country and region to region. For example, from far-away Japan, the countries of Brazil and Mexico seem close together, yet in Brazil, 80% of private cars are hatchbacks, while sedans are the most popular in Mexico. In Mexico hatchbacks are mainly bought by first-time car owners, so expensive hatchbacks do not sell well.

Manabe: Car culture varies from country to country, doesn't it?

Doi: Yes, that's right. Over time, regional characteristics have developed according to the size of the towns, and the taxes and regulations in the area. In Thailand, for example, there are many trucks, and the reason for this is that the taxes on trucks are low. There are many customers who would like to drive ordinary cars, but inevitably trucks are most common because the taxes are low and they are easy to purchase. In that respect, in Japan, where income levels are high and automobile manufacturers can offer a wide variety of car types, there is little bias, and there is a large variety of cars on the roads. What kinds of car do people in Takamatsu drive?

Manabe: In Takamatsu a lot of people choose light motor vehicles and compact cars. When I see customers in Takamatsu, I notice that for example the "adults drive sedans" image has mostly disappeared, and I get the impression that people choose cars that meet their needs. Kagawa is Japan's smallest prefecture, and you can drive from one side of the prefecture to the other in about an hour and a half. People do not need to drive long distances, and the roads are well maintained and pretty flat, so I think a lot of people feel that they don't need cars with large engines, as compact cars are more than adequate. On the same island of Shikoku, in Ehime, Kochi and Tokushima prefectures, there are towns in the mountains and on the coasts. In Takamatsu, it is inevitable that a large proportion of the vehicles are light motor vehicles and compact cars.

Doi: From the point of view of an automobile manufacturer, I feel that as well as the car's size and speed suiting the size of the town, there are also colors that naturally blend into the surroundings. The thing we can do with small cars that we can't with larger ones is to create a wide variety of color options. Car designers say that the same car will be seen as a different color depending on whether it is in Japan, America, or France. They really do look different in different places. There are colors that are perfectly suited to certain landscapes and atmospheres.

Are compact cars the most enjoyable?

Takamatsu Report 04
Doi: We were talking about aging populations before, and I think that compact cars are ideal for older people to use for getting around day to day. It seems that the length from fingertip to fingertip when you extend your arms is the size people can comfortably deal with, and for most people compact cars are about that size.

Manabe: There are people that find it very difficult to drive a large car after getting used to driving a compact car, and I think the appeal of a compact car is that you feel it is an extension of yourself when driving it.

Doi: The field of vision also plays a part. Compact cars are said to be enjoyable to drive because the field of vision is easily manageable for the driver. When a survey was taken that asked "Which Nissan car is the most enjoyable to drive?" of course many people responded with "GT-R," "Z," and so on, but on the other hand there were also a lot of people who responded with "March." You can enjoy driving with the sense of having a wide field of vision, rather than of looking through a small window at the scenery outside.