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Nissan hits milestone

The Japanese factory that produces the Nissan Micra and the 350Z for Australia — and will soon send us the “Godzilla” GT-R, which has just rolled its 15 millionth car down the line.

Nissan's Oppama factory reached the milestone on December 19, 46 years after it opened as Japan's first full-scale passenger car plant.

Oppama was also the first to use welding robots, in 1970, and one of the earliest to introduce a mixed production line that allows different cars to be built at the same time.

From 1993-1997, Oppama also produced the imported Bluebird that replaced the previous Australian-built model.

It now builds seven models; March, which we get as the Micra, Cube, Cube Cubic, Tiida, Tiida Latio, Note and Bluebird Sylphy.

The plant complex includes the Oppama Wharf, which handles up to 80,000 vehicles a month, as well as the Nissan Research Centre, Global Training Centre and Gran Drive proving ground.

Oppama's relative closeness to Australia has been a strong factor in cutting the waiting time for local orders, Nissan Australia spokesman Jeff Fisher says.

“Shipments from Japan reach us more quickly, so it shortens supply times,” he says.

“And if body colour is a big factor of an order, which it is in Micra we want to be able to react to that quickly.”

Oppama's location and its cost-effective production plan could also have been a contributing factor in the company reintroducing the Micra here.

Even with a stable and strong dollar, Nissan Australia CEO Shinya Hannya admits the little car had only a slim profit margin.

That would have been shaved further by the extra cost to ship cars from the other Micra production site in Britain.

The 15-millionth car built at Oppama was a Tiida.

But it is not coming to Australia because our Tiida cars are made in Thailand, and instead is being shipped to Africa.