Saturday, March 03, 2012

Datsun Nameplate to Make a Comeback


The Nissan name has successfully succeeded the defunct Datsun for almost three decades, as the Japanese automaker moved its products to its global namesake in 1983. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Americans were hesitant to buy Japanese cars, but there’s no way you could dislike a name as convivial as “Datsun.” So Nissan used it here, and it worked.

Nissan looks to be reviving the nomenclature, but not for us. Instead, the Datsun name will be coming back for use in emerging markets such as India, Brazil, Russia, and China for low-priced vehicles.

According to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei, the Datsun models are expected to ride on the Nissan V-platform, a low-cost architecture currently used in our Nissan Versa sedan. They will be marketed as basic transportation, selling for upwards of $6,100. That’s a little under half the price of our Nissan Versa sedan and right around one third the price of our more expensive B-platform Nissan Versa hatchback. In Russia, reports suggest the Datsun name will go on cars made by Avtovaz Lada vehicles, which are mostly refreshed designs held over from the Soviet era.

By bringing the name back, Nissan hopes to reignite the same formula it used to gain a foothold int he U.S., albeit without a sports car like the Datsun 240Z. The plan is to sell 300,000 cars globally, helping boost V-platform vehicle sales from 130,000 to more than 1 million annually. Nissan has so far declined to comment on the move, and we question it with parent company Renault’s Dacia brand taking largely the same role in countries where mules and rickshaws are still fairly widespread.

But Renault-Nissan has been hellbent on world domination for some time, and gaining ground in emerging markets where it doesn’t sell too many cars seems like the way to go. All we wonder is this: If Nissan is charging us twice as much for a car on the V-platform as it is selling overseas, and the Nissan Versa sedan has already redefined “basic transportation” here, how much more could the automaker possibly take out to get it to that price point?