Nissan Relaunches Old Datsun Brand with the Datsun GO Hatchback

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Earlier this week, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn officially unveiled the Datsun GO in New Delhi, India, thereby officially announcing the return of the Datsun marque of old. The new GO hatchback is named after the very first Datsun DAT-GO in a throwback to the Japanese brand’s local beginnings in 1914.

It’s been 32 years since Nissan originally trashed the Datsun brand, deciding that they’d rather consolidate all of their marketing on a single global brand (plus Infiniti). For those of you keeping track, it’s been about one year since we first heard of Nissan Motor Company’s plans to revive the old Datsun marque.

So, what made Nissan decide to bring back Datsun?

Their reasoning is actually the exact opposite of why they pulled the brand in the first place… Nissan wants to target emerging markets like India with extremely economical vehicles. However, they don’t want the Nissan nameplate to be associated with “cheap”. So, instead of launching a brand-new nameplate, they’re simply reviving Datsun.

In other words, now that Nissan is one of the biggest automakers in the world, their size actually makes launching a new nameplate MORE desirable than one-track global branding. Oh, how the times have changed!

In addition to India, the GO will be available in Russia and Indonesia by the end of 2014. South Africa is also on the radar for a possible 2015 launch.

Nissan Aiming for 10% Market Share in India by 2016

Nissan’s current Indian market share is just a hair over 1%. 1.2% to be exact. So, how are they going to increase their sales volume ten-fold in just two years?

With two key factors: extremely affordable pricing and excellent in-city driving.

First and most importantly, the GO will be cheap. This is a bare-bones vehicle with very few frills. The fanciest feature is a smartphone docking station on the dash. However, this is exactly the kind of car these markets want… 40% of the vehicles sold in India are cheaper than what is currently Nissan’s most affordable entry-level vehicle. The Datsun GO is launching with a price tag under $6,700, and that alone will allow it to compete. Nissan even hinted that they might release a truly stripped-down GO, devoid of both music and air conditioning, for as low as $3,970.

The second feature that will make the Datsun GO appealing is revealed in who will be driving it. The GO is aimed at first-time car buyers who may have never driven anything other than a motorcycle or scooter. These drivers are used to darting around city streets, so they demand a car with good agility. The Datsun GO, which is structurally based on the Nissan Micra, offers a very compact size with a low height, making it easy to squeeze through tightly packed Indian streets. It’s designed to emulate the intuitive driving dynamics of a scooter while offering the driver and passengers more space and more comfort.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the Datsun brand will ever make it outside developing countries with fast-growing markets. All Datsun vehicles will be manufactured in local factories in order to avoid exporting costs, which would destroy margins on the super-cheap vehicles. Basically, Nissan is taking things slow, targeting one market at a time to make sure they get it right. But, so far they’re doing a good job… The Datsun GO weirdly looks much more appealing than the Micra, and I’ll be excited to see what other vehicles they have in store.

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