On the 15th of July, 2013, New Delhi, India will be the site of the return of the Datsun brand. These sketches were released today, giving the world its first glimpse into what the brand’s look and feel will be when it returns to dealer floors.
Aimed directly at India, the brand is set to retain its budget-orientation. From the sketches, however, there’s a definite modern twist. After India, Datsun will be launched in Indonesia and Russia in early 2014, and South Africa later in the year. Clearly banking on developing markets they are said to be creating individual products to suit each country. According to a press release from Datsun, the brand is aimed at “up-and-coming customers in high-growth markets”, offering an “engaging driving experience, peace of mind ownership and accessibility at the right and transparent price”. They’re also stressing their competitive cost of ownership, further re-affirming the notion that Datsun will still be an “affordable” brand.
What about Nissan?
The connection between Datsun and Nissan is still strong, with the brand being driven and supported by Nissan Motor Company’s manufacturing and technical expertise. In SA, the Datsun brands will fall under the Nissan South Africa portfolio in exactly the same way that Infiniti does, benefiting from the existing network.
21st Century Datsun
Datsun died in the mid 1980s, after being run by Nissan Motor Company for just over 50 years. Ironically, the reason for its demise, according to parent-company Nissan, was to strengthen their global position under one brand. This, in stark contrast to the fragmentation of the brand now seen from the re-emergence of Datsun and the push to establish Infniti as their luxury-arm.
Budget is still the name of the Datsun-game, and in fact the reason for the re-emergence of the brand, as Nissan doesn’t feel comfortable selling entry-level vehicles under their mid-premium brand. With Infiniti taking care of their luxury markets and UD Trucks the commercial side, the Datsun range is all Nissan needs to play in every segment of passenger and commercial markets. How entry level will they be, you ask? Early speculation is sub-R100 000 in the South African market – in the form of a small hatch. In India, the first market, motoring journalists have reported talk of a mini-Mica, with the same 1,2 litre engine and much of the body kit. As the other countries set to receive the Datsun line are left-hand drive, it’s a good bet that our vehicles will be very close to those released in India.
The Russian connection
According to Nissan, the Datsun range is to be built on the Lada Kalina platform, which means that braking and fuel systems, as well as the steering setup, will likely be shared with the front-wheel drive Russian supermini. The Russian connection comes, of course, from AvtoVAZ, the Renault-Nissian alliance manufacturing arm which trades as Lada, and is behind the Dacia range. With the Lada Granta platform also available to them, expect a small B-segment sedan from the Datsun nameplate in time.
What about a bakkie?
If the re-entry of the Datsun brand has readers excited at the prospect of another affordable “bonsai” bakkie, then you’ll be disappointed. According to Nissan South Africa, there is no intention of rebranding the NP200 to return the Datsun brand to the bakkie-segment.
“Badge engineering has not worked well in most markets and in particular in the South African market. It is not our intention not to follow this rebadging strategy,” said Mike Whitfield in this interview on the issue.
You can watch the live broadcast of the reveal of the first Datsun of the 21st Century on July 15th on their new website: www.datsun.com
Here is Nissan India’s promotional video for the re-introduction of the brand: