After 30 years...Datsun is Back!
Datsun will be global brand: Nissan CEO Ghosn
By Chester Dawson
-- Nissan CEO says Datsun will be sold globally, but not in the U.S., Japan and other mature markets
-- Nissan plans to launch Datsun with total of six new vehicles in three primary markets by 2014
-- Nissan targeting first-time new car buyers in markets where it is catching up with Asian rivals
YOKOHAMA, Japan (MarketWatch) -- A day after announcing the return of its Datsun vehicle brand in three key emerging markets, Nissan Motor Co. said Wednesday it would expand the new line of cars globally--but not in developed markets such as the U.S. and U.K. where the brand made its mark 30 years ago.
The Japanese car maker said Tuesday it plans to resurrect the brand for small, sporty, inexpensive cars to attract young, first-time buyers in the world's fastest growing markets in developing economies. The once-vaunted brand, which was phased out in the early 1980s, is scheduled to hit the roads of India, Indonesia and Russia in 2014.
"Our priority for the moment is Indonesia, India and Russia, but this is a first step. Obviously, the Datsun brand will become global," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn at a press conference at company headquarters in Yokohama, following the company's initial announcement in Jakarta on Tuesday.
But Ghosn added that the vehicles will not be offered in mature markets. "I don't think, frankly, today that we have a plan to launch Datsun in Japan or any developed country...This is for high-growth emerging markets," he said.
Nissan said Datsun's ultra low cost vehicles-which the company says will be about half the cost of its current lowest end vehicles that start at $10,000-will target first-time new car buyers, especially those looking to trade up from motorcycles or used cars.
Japan's second-largest auto maker by volume after Toyota Motor Corp. aims to tap that growing customer base without tarnishing the value of its existing product lines--the middle-income Nissan brand and upscale Infiniti brand.
The company says Datsun will allow it to compete in a segment that makes up from one-third to one-half of all new car sales in India, Indonesia and Russia. It comes as Nissan is racing to catch up in those markets, where its presence has been overshadowed by rivals such as Honda Motor Co., Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co.
Nissan said it will debut two Datsun models in each of the three initial markets in 2014 and then expand that product range by an unspecified number within three years. It provided few details on design or specifications of the new vehicles, but said they will be tailored to driver preferences and road conditions in each country.
For example, Nissan said only vehicles with engine sizes of 1.2 liters and below will be introduced in Indonesia, while vehicles in Russia will incorporate larger engines.
In Mumbai, Datsun unit Program Director Ashwani Gupta said Nissan will seek to price the initial models in India under INR400,000 ($8,000), which will help it compete in the biggest segment of the local market. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.'s WagonR and Hyundai's i10 and Eon are the major brands in the INR300,000-INR400,000 price range.
While executives said Datsun might cross-share platforms and jointly source components with related operations, the cars won't be rebadged versions of the Chinese market Venucia brand made with partner Dongfeng Motor Group Co. or of Dacia vehicles sold by Nissan sister company Renault SA in Central Europe.
Instead, Nissan said it has been quietly developing an entirely new line of cars for more than two years that incorporates technological innovations and fresh styling cues.
"You should not look for proximity to an existing Japanese or American vehicle," said Vincent Cobee, a corporate vice president in charge of the Datsun brand.
"Most customers are extremely smart buyers demanding (cars) for their particular needs. They are tired of receiving what in America you would call a 'hand-me-down' from the Western world."
The new Datsun business unit has 15 dedicated employees and about 55 Nissan employees who are indirectly involved in marketing and planning functions, Cobee said.
The Datsun name was introduced in Japan in 1932, and hit U.S. streets in 1958. In the 1970s and 1980s, Datsun won over U.S. consumers with small, fuel-efficient models like the B210, and driving enthusiasts with the 280Z.
But in a controversial move that still rankles some longtime fans of the brand, the Datsun name was retired in the mid-1980s so Nissan could put its own badge on its cars.
Edited by Alim, 21 March 2012 - 09:32 PM.