Nissan has resurrected the Datsun brand, which was mothballed globally in 1986, to market a new low-cost car, the Go, in India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. Sign-off for the investment not just in the car itself but in (re)launching the Datsun brand was undoubtedly made easier because of the success of alliance partner Renault’s low-cost brand Dacia in numerous markets around the world. Datsun should certainly be able to emulate this success across emerging markets in Asia, South America and Sub-Saharan Africa and given Renault’s absence but Nissan’s strong presence, possibly even in North America too.
Dacia is not present in the four stated markets and so the Renault-Nissan Alliance does not actually have a low-cost brand in any of the countries – except in Russia where the Group has Lada through its stake in AvtoVAZ. However, Renault’s line-up in these markets does typically include rebadged Dacias (and sometimes even rebranded Nissans) and to confuse matters even further, the Dacia Logan Pickup is even sold as the Nissan NP200 in South Africa. Renault-Nissan is undoubtedly reluctant to confuse, let alone dilute, the Nissan brand in markets where it is firmly established such as India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. The (re)introduction of the Datsun brand is therefore a great way for the Renault-Nissan Alliance to offer affordable cars to consumers as their incomes take them into the new car market for the first time. The demographics also suggest that there is an especially strong case for affordable small cars such as the Datsun Go in South Africa.
Given the potential for excessive cannibalisation (especially if Datsun looks to offer a SUV based on the Dacia Duster as has been speculated), it is difficult to see room for both Dacia and Datsun in the same country but that still leaves ample demand for the re-born Datsun brand far beyond the four markets that have been announced. Ultimately, I can envisage Dacia being Renault-Nissan’s low-cost brand in Europe and North Africa, with Datsun serving this purpose across Asia, South America and the rest of Africa and given Renault’s absence but Nissan’s strong presence, possibly even across North America too. However, I’m sure the Alliance will monitor the performance of both Lada and Datsun in Russia and if there is deemed to be room for both brands, a return to Europe of Datsun for the first time since 1981 should not be ruled out.