So poor old Sydney Gordon (65) of Johannesburg is suing Nissan South Africa because he bought a Nissan NP 200 from them for R131 342 on February 22 2012 and a year later discovered that it had “Renault” stamped all over it. He must have gone to a lot of trouble stripping the bakkie to identify the 21 components he’s named in his papers filed in the Pretoria High Court because these included the engine mountings, the radiator cooling fan, the engine and gearbox, the front drive-shafts and the bonnet with its hinges. There were most likely a fair number of genuine Nissan parts as well, so while Mr Gordon is busy enjoying his French epiphany some belligerent bugger in Bucharest with too much time on his hands is probably screaming “Dumnezeule mare! Aceasta Dacia este un Nissan!” * while looking up his lawyer’s cell number. The Nissan NP200 as we know it in South Africa is based upon the Logan Pick-Up developed by the Romanian company, Dacia that was bought out by Renault in 1999. That same year Nissan and Renault hopped into bed together, buying large chunks of each other’s shares and agreeing to collaborate on design and share products where appropriate. The bakkie is sold in some countries as a Dacia, but here in South Africa it’s built alongside the Renault Sandero at Nissan’s Rosslyn plant near Pretoria and sold as a Nissan NP200. That’s a proper motoring ménage à trois dor you, non?
There’s nothing unusual about car manufacturers enjoying incestuous relationships with parent or sister companies or even selling their cars and technology on to the opposition for rebranding. The first BMW car ever, launched in the 1920s, was nothing more than a humble Austin 7 built under licence and affixed with the now-famous blue-and-white roundel. The wheel has now turned fully at the other end of the market, with Rolls-Royce using BMW V12 engines. Mr Gordon would surely be mortified. The Dodge Caliber shared much of its DNA with the Mitsubishi Lancer and the Jeep Patriot, whilst chugging down the road with a VW Golf diesel engine. Modern versions of that most British of cars, the Mini (now owned by BMW) speak with faint French accents, thanks to the engines they share with the Peugeot 207 and Citroen C3 Picasso. Should Mr Gordon be a Francophobe, he’d surely be horrified to read that Toyota’s funky little Aygo is essentially the same car as the Citroen C1 and the Peugeot 107 — all three are built together in the same factory in the Czech Republic, of all places.
Mr Gordon’s German counterpart living in his homeland in the 1980s would doubtless have been rendered speechless when he went over his new Volkswagen Toro pickup and found it was made from recycled Japanese Zero fighter planes rather than WWII Dornier bombers. The VW Toro was nothing more than a Toyota Hilux bakkie assembled by VW in Germany under licence.
Perhaps the motor industry, to avoid confusion, should heed the tale of the welfare worker who visited a mother of 16 in a Dublin council estate. “How do you keep track of them all?” she asked the mum. “Easy”, replied the fecund fool. “I named them all Casey. Then when I want to call them I just stick my head out the window and shout ‘Casey, your dinner’s ready,’ and they all come running.”
“And if you just want one?” asked the intrigued welfare woman.
“Oh, then I call them by their surname.”
Mr Gordon also wants Nissan to repay all the finance charges he made to Absa, which funded his deal. Let’s hope nobody ever tells him that Absa is actually Barclays with a safari suit and a comb in its sock.
* Goodness gracious! This Dacia is a Nissan!
First published as The Crest / The Ridge magazines Last Word column in October / November 2013.