The Tsuru is widely prized by taxi drivers in Mexico because of its low cost and ruggedness, but has also been slammed by critics for its lack of safety equipment and poor crash test results.
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Nissan said it will end production in May, including a special limited-edition “commemorative” version of a 1,000 models. Nissan did not give a reason for the decision.
The boxy, basic car was sold under the Sentra name in the U.S. in the early 1990s, and was named the Sunny elsewhere.
It’s been viewed as last in the line of small, boxy cars that began production in the 1960s under the Datsun badge.
The car was a successor to the now-retired VW “bug” as Mexico’s favorite low-cost car. The Tsuru picked up much of the low-end market after the bug went out of production in Mexico – the last market where it was produced – in 2003.
Nissan said the model, which appeared in a slightly more rounded version starting in 1990, had sold a total of 2.4 million units in its 32-year run.
“The majority of Mexicans have some story or anecdote of our relationship with a Tsuru,” said Mayra Gonzalez, president of Nissan Mexicana.
Taxi driver Mauro Jimenez Aldama negotiated Mexico City’s traffic-clogged main boulevard in his older-model Tsuru Wednesday when he got the news.
“I don’t like it, I don’t know why Nissan has decided to take it away,” he noted. “It is very cheap to maintain, cheap to run.”
While many Mexico City taxi drivers have switched to higher-end cars, in provincial Mexico the Tsuru remains the workhorse of taxi fleets, especially in southern Mexico, where the compact sedans fly at high speeds down country roads.
However, high speeds also expose Tsuru occupants to potentially disastrous injuries; the Latin NCAP safety group gave the Tsuru a zero-star crash rating, and called it one of the most unsafe cars on the road. The auto safety group said the Tsuru experienced the highest fatality score of any vehicle sold in Mexico. It is also sold in some parts of South America.
Nissan announced the end of production one day before Latin NCAP was scheduled to release the results of a head-on crash test between a Tsuru – which lacks air-bags and crumples in crashes – and a higher-end Nissan Versa. The cheapest Versa models cost a couple of thousand dollars more than a basic Tsuru, but the Versa has air bags.
Alejandro Furas, general secretary of Latin NCAP, said “it is clear that Nissan made this announcement in response to the campaign mounted by Latin NCAP, Global NCAP and other groups to get automakers to stop selling zero-star cars in Mexico and Latin America.”
The group had recently released a report saying that requiring minimal security standards – airbags, multi-point seat belts and lateral body reinforcement – could prevent 40,000 vehicular deaths in Latin America’s largest car markets between 2016 and 2030.