Reborn Datsun brand has growth strategy image

After an absence of more than a quarter-century, Nissan’s reborn Datsun brand recently made its return with the launch of the little Go hatchback.

Datsun is returning to its roots as a simple and affordable car, in this case targeting emerging markets that will also include Russia, South Africa and Indonesia after Indian premiere.

Eventually, said the brand’s chief executive Vincent Cobee, Datsun will be sold in as many as 50 markets around the world, aiming at first-time buyers on a limited budget.

“It’s a reflection of their (limited) purchasing power,” explained one-time civil engineer Cobee who has been running the Datsun project since 2010. “A first-time buyer in the United States might be able to spend $20,000 on a new car. In India, that might be $7,000.”

Japan’s second-largest automaker is taking a very different approach to Datsun than it has with the Nissan and Infiniti brands. To maximize economies of scale with those higher-priced marques, the approach has been to come up with globalized products that can be sold in markets from Berlin to Boston to Beijing with just relatively modest changes – largely reflecting local safety, fuel economy and emissions standards.

With Datsun, the maker plans to follow what Cobee called a more “glocalized” strategy “defined by the culture” of each individual market. Products developed for “each Datsun market,” he added, “will have more diversity than (those of) the Nissan brand.”

That approach could yield significant volume in the emerging world. Nissan forecasters estimated these markets could eventually generate from 15 million to 30 million sales annually – perhaps a third or more of total worldwide demand by 2025, according to some industry estimates.

In the mid-term, Datsun is looking at sales that could top 500,000, but Cobee stressed that the newly revived brand is not in a rush. “We need to get it right,” he emphasized. “That’s more important than doing it quickly.”

After Datsun was re-launched with India as its first market, Russia will soon follow, with Indonesia and South Africa completing the quartet of first markets Datsun has so far identified. Also, on the long-term Cobee talks about more than 20 markets, but less than 50.