In its first year or so on sale, the 2023 Nissan Z hasn't had it easy. Its production was first impacted last July by semiconductor chip shortages, then by a stop-sale when problems with its automatic transmission posed the risk of a roll-away. After more than a year, the Z remains a rare sight on the road, apparently because Nissan is still having trouble making them. But it's not a problem with chips; it's the dip—if you take my meaning. (It's the paint. Paint.)
The problems are said by Driver Web to stem from issues at Nissan's plant in Tochigi where the Z is built. Subject of the Nissan Intelligent Factory initiative, Tochigi has an increased emphasis on sustainability and the latest production technologies, including increased automation. Both of these have been implemented in the painting process, and it's where the Z's bottleneck is said to lie.
What the exact problem is wasn't specified, but Nissan notes its Tochigi facility uses an automated paint inspection system that can detect flaws down to 0.3 millimeters in size. The plant also uses water-based paint with low-temperature curing that decreases energy consumption and recycles air used in the drying process. It's reported that some part of the painting process—potentially relating to one or all of these steps—is to blame for slow Z production.
Also said to affect front-wheel-drive Ariya EVs, the issue is reportedly so severe that just 435 Z cars have been registered in Japan from January through May of this year, with just 67 getting plates last month. Orders in Japan have reportedly been suspended since July 2022, but even with a modest order backlog of 5,000 cars, it'd take Nissan more than five years to fulfill at the current pace. For reference, the Dodge Charger sold 7,861 units in March 2023 alone according to Good Car Bad Car.
Despite this slow pace, Nissan is expected to reveal the higher-performing Z Nismo later this year, with altered aero and improved brakes on the table. Contrary to hints by Nissan officials, however, horsepower gains are expected to be minimal.
A Nissan spokesperson acknowledged the Z's production troubles, attributing them to an ongoing parts shortage (including semiconductor chips), but admitting that Tochigi's new production processes have also played a role. Additionally, they stated orders for the Z in North America remain open—though they didn't comment on the status of order banks in Japan.
"Production of the Nissan Ariya and Z at the Tochigi Plant in Japan has been facing the significant challenges of 1) a limited semiconductor supply and 2) deliveries of components that have been hampered by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," the Nissan spokesperson said. "In addition, with the introduction of the Nissan Intelligent Factory initiative at the plant, a completely new production system was adopted. Unfortunately, it is taking some time to further improve the production capabilities in the painting and assembly processes. Nissan is making a full and diligent effort to fully regain production capacity at the plant."
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