The Nissan Cube might be a cult hit in Australia thanks to thousands of ‘grey import’ used cars across the country, but that’s not enough to convince the Japanese giant to import the box-shaped hatchback as a brand-new model for local showrooms.
The Nissan Cube will remain a Japan-only car because the cost of bringing the tiny vehicle up to Australian and European safety standards has been deemed prohibitively expensive.
While he sympathised with the plight facing many Australian fans of the Nissan Cube, design chief Alfonso Albaisa delivered a blunt assessment when asked about the iconic car at the 2019 Tokyo motor show.
“One of the sad parts of the auto industry is some things that seem easy are ‘wow’ not so easy,’ Mr Albaisa told Australian media in Japan this week.
“So some cars just simply would cost so much money to homologate (gain government approval) in some places, and then the volume wouldn’t recover [the cost],” he said.
Nissan did attempt to make the Cube a global model (pictured below) in 2010 – with the lucrative US market in mind – but Nissan learned the hard way that not everyone is a fan of its cute design.
“The Cube going global was not the most successful exercise and a lot of that is the pressures that have to happen to the car in order to meet all the [regulations],” said Mr Albaisa. “So, for now, we don’t have any plans [to design an export version of the Cube]”.
Mr Albaisa also said the Nissan Cube lost some of its original charm when it was redesigned to meet international tastes.
“Going global morphed the Cube into something else, and it lost a little bit of what I loved about [the previous model],” he said.
Nissan says it has a queue of 60 new models to roll out in the coming years and a global Cube is not a priority. “We don’t have any specific plan,” he said.
In the meantime, the only way to buy a Nissan Cube in Australia is via secondhand ‘grey import’ dealers, although that loophole will soon close following sweeping changes to vehicle import regulations.