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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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Buying a Car for Mobility and Personal Experience

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Manabe: If you take compact cars as the standard, anything larger can be said to be a "large car." Consumers seem to be less picky about car types than they used to be, and it seems that they are now more concerned with mobility than about the actual car itself. Rather than being interested in cars themselves, they are more interested in just getting around, and they place more importance on getting to where they want to go and experiencing things at those places. I feel that the role of cars has changed a lot from what it used to be.

Doi: Surveys show that placing value on mobility stems from developed countries, and the more that cars are a part of society, the stronger this trend. In China, there are still many customers who prefer to buy large cars, but this is already changing amongst the younger generation. Environmental problems are another reason cars need to be smaller and lighter. But they should not be too small. There is no point in cars that are smaller than necessary. Customers are looking for cars that are the right size for their needs.

Manabe: It seems that it is important that the size is just right.

Doi: It will never happen that all the cars in the world are compact cars. There is a "just right" size for America, and a different one for Europe, and so on. For example, in a country like America, the March is too small. In such a large country, the Tiida would be a more suitable compact car, as it is large enough for people's lifestyle needs there.

Manabe: Cars are one's private space, so comfort is also important. But with regard to comfort, there are a growing number of customers who say that they do not need a car to be any more comfortable than is necessary. I feel that customers look critically at cars and have their own ideas about what is most suitable for their needs.

Providing the Ideal Match for Users

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Doi: The ideal car size varies from country to country, so it is different in Japan, Europe, India, China, and so on. This means it is impossible to meet every demand with just one model of car. However, while keeping costs down by using a car like the March as a platform, we can produce cars that are suited to particular regions. The March is driven in countries that do not have as well-maintained roads as those in Japan, and where less than half of the roads are surfaced. Naturally, in such places the durability requirements for cars are completely different to those in Japan, so even though the car looks the same, actually the design of such things as the suspension system is different. The March sold in Japan has the best gas mileage of all the versions of the March sold around the world. The March that does 26km/liter is just right for Japan. We placed emphasis on gas mileage in Japan because of customers' environmental consciousness, the eco-car tax break system, and the cost of gasoline, etc. We also needed a device that would show off this good gas mileage performance, so the March is equipped with a device that stops the engine when it is idle (Idling Stop). Customers using this device for the first time seem to be surprised by how quiet the car is when waiting at lights, even before they notice the good gas mileage. We feel that it is important to provide new experiences like this for customers.

Manabe: Once you've experienced Idling Stop, you wonder why in the past you had always left your engine running. By understanding what they need and what is just right for them, users are getting the sense that having the unnecessary things removed is actually a luxury. I get the impression that there are few customers who want high spec vehicles, and most would prefer something that is just right for them. Providing this awareness is bound to be an important factor in making the judgment regarding what "just right" actually is.

(To be continued)
Preview of the next installment
The next NTM report will also be delivered to you from Takamatsu. Mr. Manabe and Mr. Doi will travel on "Kotoden" and consider the relationship between cars and public transport, and while walking the shopping streets of Takamatsu will consider the future of mobility in the city. We will cover Mr. Manabe’s question to Mr. Doi of "How can the Nissan Leaf be used effectively in the city of Takamatsu?" and Mr. Doi’s question to Mr. Manabe of "What kind of city does Takamatsu aim to be with the introduction of electric cars?" Also, what is the true meaning behind Mr. Manabe’s words, "What was that about, living in the confusion of Tokyo’s crowds?" We will bring to you "the future of compact cars" from the setting of Takamatsu, where this topic is extremely relevant.