After more than three decades on the shelf, Nissan is bringing the Datsun name back from retirement. The newly reintroduced brand will serve as the front-runner for Nissan’s continuing efforts to capture the lucrative developing market. The company is set to debut the nameplate in New Delhi on July 15, with the goal of selling between 150,000 and 200,000 Datsun-badged cars in India annually.
The “Datsun” name should be familiar to anyone shopping for a new car during the 1970s and 1980s. After all, it was the original name that Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. used to sell its vehicles under, throughout the world, starting in 1931. From its entry into the U.S. market in 1958, the Datsun name resided on a host of well-known models, such as the iconic 240Z (known as Fairlady Z in other markets) and the economical 510 compact.
In the early 1980s, Nissan made a major effort to unify its worldwide product branding and corporate identity by phasing out the Datsun nameplate. From 1982 to 1986, the company slowly rebadged its vehicles and dealerships as “Nissan,” often using both the Datsun and Nissan name on its vehicles to help customers not only identify its products, but also ease the transition between nameplates. However, a study conducted five years after the changeover indicated that more people were still familiar with Datsun than they were with Nissan.
The New Datsun
Nissan has a new mission in store for the revitalized brand – to sell vehicles developed strictly for developing markets. As disposable income continues to rise throughout the developing world, automakers are increasingly seeing a strong demand for reliable and affordable cars. Nations such as China and India have seen a phenomenal growth in overall net income and as a result, a significant increase in the number of new drivers and vehicles on the roads.
This steady demand is something that Nissan intends to tap into with the help of the Datsun name. The new brand’s reach will, for the moment, only extend to the Russian, Indian and Indonesian automotive markets. According to Autocar India, the next car to bear the Datsun name will most likely be a compact five-door hatchback based on a platform crafted from a partnership between Nissan, French automaker Renault and Russian automaker AvtoVAZ.
The new Datsun will probably rely on a relatively frugal 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine found in the Nissan Micra and feature a $5,500 price point. This undercuts the Nissan Versa, currently the lowest priced new car in the U.S. at $12,780, by a significant amount. The new Datsun also sports an easily distinguishable corporate grille with a modernized Datsun logo prominently featured in the center. Thanks to its low price point and distinctive looks, Nissan hopes to attract aspiring middle-class customers in search of an affordable, yet attractive family car.
Nissan hopes to expand the Datsun lineup to 10 models in India by March 2017. By that time, it’s hoped that the marque cements the reputation it had some 30 years ago, as a source of frugal but capable and comfortable cars for aspiring buyers.