Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Datsun brand comeback is confirmed


It’s confirmed. Datsun is back. That’s right. The brand that Nissan discontinued in order to unify all of its products under one roof will be back on the road in the very near future. The news isn’t a surprising one. Nissan was earlier reported to be ready to revive the brand.
Reports suggest that Datsun will be an affordable car brand, with vehicles bearing a small displacement engine and fitted with high local content. Carlos Ghosn was quoted as saying that the Datsuns would be green cars, no doubt supporting the Indonesian government’s plans to introduce a Green Car plan in the near future.
So, in the grand scheme of things, Datsun will conveniently take its place under its parent, Nissan, and placed well away from the top-shelf Infiniti marque. The target market for each brand cannot be more obvious.
The rejuvenated sub-brand has a whole new market to tackle, of course. Ghosn, while talking to the media, said that Datsun ‘will provide sustainable motoring experience to optimistic up-and-coming customers in high-growth markets’. And it will all start in Indonesia.

Nostalgia – the B110 from 1970-73. Click to enlarge.
Which is why Nissan will be upping its production base and sales presence in the country. The total production capacity in Nissan’s Cikampek site will increase to 250,000 annually by 2014, with the workforce expanding to 3,300. This makes this factory one of the largest in the ASEAN region for Nissan. There are also plans to add 150 more dealerships by 2015.
Reports states that Datsun vehicles will start sales in India, Indonesia and Russia from 2014, but Indonesia remains the priority market for the brand, Ghosn said. “If there is any room for more capacity it will be located for the domestic (market) rather than for exports,” he told reporters. The reports also indicate an initial target figure of 60,000 units annually, with a growth rate of 7% each year.
To put more meat on the bones: there were 800,000 vehicles sold in Indonesia in 2011 alone. That makes the island-nation ASEAN’s largest car market. The total is estimated to increase almost double by 2017. And it looks like Nissan would love to be in the thick of things.

And this is the B210 from 1973-77.
Demarcation is always a good thing, especially if you’re looking to define your products and their intended target market, without affecting clout and the perception of your consumer base. In this regard, the Renault-Nissan alliance has set up its stall with clear intent and purpose as far as separation goes – Renault has Dacia, and Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti.
Going the Dacia route wouldn’t work, at least not in the region. The brand is an unknown entity in these parts, and besides, it has Renault spelt all over it. Datsun has far better ‘heritage’ (well, it does!) and association as a name, and the reintroduction route is a simpler option to plonk for. In any case, offering a clear sub-brand should work far better than going say, the IMV route chosen by Toyota.
Still, there’s the odd, inevitable question. I wonder how much money is being spent to reintroduce the name. To the average teen on the street, the name Datsun could very well mean a new line of shoes. And it is this same group of teenagers that will possibly own a Datsun as their first car; Datsun is a brand that’s unheard of where the current generation is concerned. It could probably be a new brand of smartphones, for all they know.

Now, who can forget the B310 – known as the 120Y here – from 1977-81?
It might not matter, really, because if it’s all priced right and meets the requirements of the intended market, it’ll be lapped up.
Malaysia isn’t on the Datsun radar, at least not at the moment, and in all likelihood the brand might not come. The cheapest Nissan in the market is now the Sentra 1.6 manual, at around RM85,000. Price the car any lower, which the Datsun must absolutely be, and it will invade into national car territory. Price it higher, which is the likely scenario, and it simply doesn’t make sense.
In spite of these speculative hurdles, I do hope Datsun makes it back here and I do hope it re-establishes itself, more for nostalgic reasons than any other. For the older generation of drivers, it was with Datsun cars that they first cut their motoring teeth. Me, I cut mine in a B11 130Y, the initial batch of which bore Datsun badging.

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