Renault-Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn has confirmed that the Datsun name is being revived as a budget car brand in emerging markets. Ghosn made the announcement during an address in Indonesia today, and the southeast Asian nation will be one of the first to receive Datsun products, along with Russia and India. All three markets will get cars in 2014.
Datsun cars were sold between 1932 and 1981, with iconic models like the 240Z and 510 building renown for the brand in the U.S., before the name was absorbed by the Nissan brand. Rumors of Datsun's return have periodically surfaced in the ensuing decades, but now Nissan thinks the time is right to revive the name to bolster its push into emerging markets. Although the Datsun brand has been officially referred to as "Nissan's third global brand, alongside Nissan and Infiniti," it seems unlikely that Datsun will return to the U.S.
Andy Palmer, executive vp of Renault-Nissan, confirmed at the recent Geneva motor show that the company was planning an entry-level car project that could rival the Tata Nano, although at the time he stopped short of confirming the Datsun name.
“We're talking about a range of cars that would provide a value-for-money opportunity in several segments,” he said. “I won't use the word cheap, as the customers won't want a cheap car, but they will want value for money, which means quality and good design that they can afford.
“If you look at the number of people on bikes who want to move to move up to a car, the possibilities are enormous. But at the moment there is very little on offer.”
Palmer conceded that each market would need its own regional specification. “If you look at the price point we're talking about then it could never be a world car,” he said. “Besides, building to a car for all world use means introducing compromises. It is better to adapt for local markets.”
During his speech in Indonesia, Ghosn also announced plans for major investment in Indonesia, which is the largest economy in southeast Asia. The company wants to increase sales in the country from 60,000 to 200,000 units per year by 2016. Nissan plans to invest $400 million in its assembly plant at Cikampek, near Jakarta, and ramp up production at the facility.