Datsun is back. Japanese auto major Nissan on Monday relaunched the brand, which was mothballed three decades ago, to cater to entry-level segments in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa.
Datsun kickstarted its second journey with a hatchback, “GO”, priced at less than Rs. 4 lakh, to go on sale early next year.
The company will unveil cars for the other three markets during the course of the year. The global launch of Datsun in India underlines the Renault-Nissan alliance’s aim to tap India’s small car market, in which it has been a relative laggard with a market-share of just 1.2%.
“Our focus in the Indian market is strong. By 2016, we will launch 10 new products that will include those from Datsun, and we intend to increase our market-share to 10% by that time,” said Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO, Renault Nissan.
The Datsun GO will compete with the likes of Maruti Alto, India's best-selling car for 7 years now, and the Hyundai Eon. It is a segment that commands a significant proportion of industry sales, but one that many others have failed to crack. Most auto-makers such as Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen have refused to enter the segment for fear of diluting their brand.
According to Nissan, bringing in a new brand eliminates that problem.
“We have said the car will be priced below Rs. 4 lakh, but we are not playing any tricks by bringing in the car at Rs. 3.99 lakh and pricing it at Rs. 5 lakh for the top variant,” said Vincent Cobee, corporate vice-president, Datsun Business Unit.
At least one more Datsun car will be launched, and Cobee did not rule out pricing it even below the GO. That would put it in the vicinity of the Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest car that costs Rs. 1.5-2 lakh.
“Yes, we can go lower but that is not a target and we will not compromise on what the consumers want,” he said. “Others may have failed because they did not have much respect to the consumer, brought in old technology or stripped down existing global cars. Datsun will make new cars from the scratch and not borrow from Nissan.”
The GO has been entirely engineered in India and will be powered by a 1.2 litre-petrol engine, details of which were not shared.
The car will be manufactured at the Renault Nissan plant in Chennai.