Somebody Stole the New Nissan Kicks Production Tooling So Now It’s Delayed

Why thieves would steal automotive production tooling is open to speculation, but it’s thrown a spanner in Nissan’s plans.

byLewin Day|
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If you're a fan of budget-friendly vehicles, you'll be aware that a new Nissan Kicks is just around the corner. Sadly, though, its U.S. debut has been delayed thanks to the alleged theft of important tooling needed for its manufacturing.

As reported by Automotive News, it's the second major delay to the debut of the new compact SUV. The first came when the vehicle failed basic crash safety tests, which put back the timeline by approximately a month and a half. The new delay is expected to be a further five months, due to the loss of production tooling that was stolen from a supplier's factory in Mexico. Sources briefed on the matter did not identify the supplier in question, nor the parts the tooling was for.

Nissan confirmed the launch delay to Automotive News without specifying a reason for the hold-up.

"The arrival of the next-generation Kicks is delayed slightly due to an unexpected factor outside the company's control," Brian Brockman, Vice President of Communications for Nissan US and Canada told the outlet. "Until then, we expect to have strong availability of the current model, which continues to be one of the most popular vehicles in its segment."

Production is now expected to begin in June next year, with U.S. deliveries to begin shortly after that. The Kicks will be built at Nissan's factory in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

The ongoing production of the existing model will help fill gaps for dealers, but some are still frustrated at the delay. San Francisco Bay area dealer Chadi Moussa told Automotive News that the new model was badly needed to compete with rival automakers. "We have nothing techie in the lineup except for the Ariya," said Moussa. "Everything else is two, three years behind."

The Kicks has an average transaction price of around $25,000, making it one of the cheapest cars on sale. It remains an important model for Nissan dealers, with a high proportion of customers taking on finance, a key profit center for dealerships. 2022's second quarter saw sales up a full 28 percent over the year prior, with production ramping up as pandemic supply chain issues waned. Overall, Nissan sold 54,879 units of the Kicks last year. As a guide, that's almost two-thirds of Mitsubishi's total sales in the U.S. for the entire calendar year.

The theft of the tooling raises some questions as to the motive of the perpetrators. Unless the thieves intend to start their own factory, the tooling really only has value to Nissan. It's plausible, though, that it could have been stolen for its scrap value. Alternatively, a more creative thief might have tried to ransom the tooling back to the automaker, assuming it could be identified for what it was.

With the tooling gone, the five-month delay is no surprise. It's unclear exactly what was taken, but things like press tools and casting dies can take six months to a year to build. Tooling is ordered well in advance of a new model's debut to ensure it's ready to go when sales start in earnest. Replacing tooling in a short amount of time can be challenging depending on whether the toolmaker has available production capacity to fit in a rush job.

The Kicks has been available globally since 2016, and in the U.S. since 2018. It received a refresh in 2021, with updates inside and out. Seven years in production is actually a pretty short inning for a Nissan these days, but it's good to see the Japanese automaker duly refreshing its fleet.

Reports suggest the new Kicks is due to debut with a bigger engine and all-wheel-drive for the 2025 model year. It's also expected to ride higher, and feature a new fascia design more in line with the Ariya and Versa. This could all make the subcompact crossover better than ever, but it could also jack up the price. We'll just have to wait a little longer to see how the new generation model pans out.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com

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