Datsun is ready to roll in India
More than two decades after Nissan killed off the Datsun brand name, this venerable doyen of the Japanese automotive industry is set to be resurrected, as an independent third brand of the Renault-Nissan Alliance (fifth if one adds in Dacia in Romania and Samsung in South Korea) with prime criteria to drive growth in the burgeoning BRIC world!
Early today I was among a handful of journalists from India, Indonesia and Russia who were given access to the story behind not just the rebirth of Datsun but what is the significance of this brand and the type of automobiles it intends to build and deliver in the emerging markets for the auto makers. Born out of Carlos Ghosn's desire to tap low cost but not cheap methodologies to build cars saw his trusted lieutenant Vincent Cobee and veteran Nissan manufacturing hot shot Hidetoshi Imazu brainstorm not about how to carve out a low cost car but how to rethink the car business itself! Many have embarked on this line of thought but their endeavour hasn't gone the way they envisaged. I don't know why but the way Datsun has been conceived just could be the one way of rethinking the art of car design and manufacture in emerging markets.
The moot point was that a year ago Datsun wasn't even in the reckoning except in the minds of the aforementioned trio who debated hard about rethinking manufacturing processes to bring down development costs, crunching development times to get to market quickly and even more cost effectively while at the same time setting about thinking smart on identifying exact needs of car buyers at the entry level spectrum of the car market. It is no secret that Carlos Ghosn was an early advocate of low cost manufacturing and had been in the forefront of acknowledging Indian ingenuity courtesy the Tata Nano and also the qualitative back end of manufacturers like Bajaj Auto (with whom it explored a cheap low cost car before it fizzled out). Doing Datsun to take on Maruti Suzuki is I think a radical yet sensible approach because it finally hints at a series of cars priced just as competitively, designed even more effectively while delivering better performance and better fuel efficiency.
Towards that end we were told about not one or two but three cars being made by Datsun in India, two in the very first year of operations in 2014, with a third being added a year later. If that is not all, the range would be enhanced and updated every three years and the philosophy of global capability delivering local products would see no less than five body styles being evolved for manufacture and sale, first in India which will see the world launch of Datsun in July this year followed by Indonesia and Russia later this year with South Africa also getting into the production matrix a year down the line.