Press takes Nissan van for test drive

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The nation’s premier automotive journalists took a test drive down the Natchez Trace Thursday to enjoy some of the city’s hospitality &045; and, of course, to look at the new Nissan Quest minivan manufactured in Canton.

&uot;It has a lot of character,&uot; said Ron Sessions of Motor Trend magazine as he sipped lemonade from a mint julep cup at Monmouth. But Sessions was talking about the minivan, not the Natchez hospitality.

&uot;It has a lot of design details that are very interesting,&uot; Sessions said. &uot;Most minivans are just appliances.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

A row of the new minivans was parked outside Monmouth as the journalists dined on Southern cuisine inside. Sessions said he and other journalists are used to the treatment.

&uot;Everyone’s treating us just wonderful,&uot; he said. &uot;They want to make sure we leave with a good impression.&uot;

So why Natchez? Dean Case, public relations manager for Nissan, said the city is the right distance from the plant for a test drive &045; but it also has the right amenities for a memorable trip, including the lunch at Monmouth.

&uot;We were told Natchez would be a great place,&uot; Case said, crediting the Monmouth staff with treating the group well.

&uot;There is definite truth to Southern hospitality.&uot;

That Southern hospitality isn’t exactly what attracts automakers to the region, though, according to the journalists who took the test drive.

&uot;There are obvious reasons why they’re doing it,&uot; said Aaron Robinson, the technical editor for Car and Driver magazine. &uot;The wages are low here. The Japanese probably like the climate Š they see the South as true Americana.&uot;

Other economic factors &045; such as locating suppliers near the auto plants &045; also helps, Robinson said.

While Mississippi has landed Nissan, neighboring Alabama has attracted three automakers over the past six years, most recently Hyundai.

But for the most part, the journalists will be writing about the minivan and its features &045; which, in the loaded version of the Quest, include skylights, a DVD-based navigation display and a hookup for a Playstation.

&uot;Our readers are merely interested in the product,&uot; said John Rettie, a freelance writer.

And how did the minivan perform?

&uot;This is a minivan that’s different from other minivans,&uot; Rettie said. &uot;I’m impressed by it. This is a move up (for Nissan).&uot;