Cute Is The New Big: Nissan’s Minicar Exceeding Expectations

The Wall Street Journal (paid sub. req.) looks at Nissan’s ability to reach young Japanese women with a “cute” minicar, a class of vehicle that features engines of under 660 cubic centimeters — about half the size of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Nissan Motor Co. had a tough challenge in launching its Pino minicar: Make it appeal to young female consumers who couldn’t care less about cars.
While these deep-pocketed shoppers spend lavishly on clothes and accessories, cars are optional for many. Instead, they rely on bicycles, motorbikes or public transport. So Nissan Motor purposely avoided focusing too much attention on the car itself. Instead, television and print ads portray the Pino as just one item in a collage of accessories, such as plushy animals, furry seat cushions and heart-shaped decals.
Nissan has no plans to take its minicars to the U.S. Even the most minute new models in the U.S. have much larger engines than Japanese minicars. “This is a Japan-only phenomenon,” says Miwa Ishii, marketing manager for Nissan’s minicar division.

The minicar is named after Pinocchio. The model is selling at double the rate Nissan projected. One reason for this (aside from the cute marketing strategy) might be the fact it gets 50 m.p.g. CNN/Money indicates that gasoline is $4.24 per gallon in Japan today.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.