Homegrown auto major Tata Motors may have envisaged the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, with an eye at two-wheeler buyers in the country, but Japanese brand Datsun, which is looking at a range of no-frills cars for India, does not share this point of view.
A Datsun small car of the 1950s
The brand is owned by the Nissan, a part of the global Franco-Japanese alliance Renault-Nissan, which revived Datsun in March this year to provide low cost alternatives for emerging markets like India, Indonesia and Russia.
It plans to launch at least two products in these markets, beginning with a launch in India in January 2014.
“Some look at low cost cars as an alternative to two wheelers, but I don’t see it that way,” said Vincent Cobee, corporate vice-president, Datsun Business Unit. “The advantages that a bike provides — high fuel economy, no parking hassles, no congestion and lowest cost of ownership — I don’t think a car can match that. A Datsun car will complement a two-wheeler buyer who will use the car during weekends for outings with the family.”
These cars would not be built on global platforms, and will be low-frills, optimised vehicles suited to local market needs. The models for India, Indonesia and Russia would have little in common. The first car is expected to compete directly with India’s largest selling car, Maruti Alto, and Hyundai’s Eon. The other car would be slightly more expensive and reportedly share the V platform of Nissan Micra.
“There can be some commonality but that will be negligible,” Cobee said. “What we are looking at is providing market centric solutions with the quality assurance of a global brand. The cars would be a value proposition, but not cheap. A customer should not be ashamed to buy a Datsun car. Unlike somebody who buys, say a Jaguar, he is spending much more of his earnings... say a year or two years of his annual savings, to buy the car.”
Though the Rs. 1.43-2 lakh Nano has had a topsy turvy ride in India so far, Renault Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has been a big supporter of the project. Ghosn had in the past tied up with two-wheeler manufacturer Bajaj for a similar low frills car, and has not ruled out making such a car under Datsun brand directly.
Datsun is expected to account for between 33-50% of Nissan's overall sales in its three markets by the end of fiscal 2016. The cars would be made at Renault-Nissan’s existing factory near Chennai.