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Nissan Revives Datsun Brand With Hatchback Model in India

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. poses with the new Datsun Go at a media event in New Delhi. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled its first model under the revived Datsun brand, a five-door hatchback, targeted at attracting budget buyers from Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Hyundai Motor Co. in Asia’s third-biggest car market.

The 1.2-liter model, called Datsun Go, will go on sale in India early next year, according to the carmaker. Nissan, which didn’t disclose the car’s pricing at an event in New Delhi today, reiterated it will be under 400,000 rupees ($6,700).

Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn will have to overcome an initial lack of brand recognition for the Datsun among consumers in emerging markets, where the automaker is pushing to gain more sales from first-time buyers. The marque was mothballed in 1981 after Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan decided to badge future products under its namesake brand.

“Datsun is back,” Ghosn said in the Indian capital today. The brand will “contribute significantly” to Nissan’s growth in high-growth markets, he said.

Nissan targets to have 10 percent of market share in India by 2016, Ghosn said. Last year, the automaker had less than a 2 percent share of the 1.89 million cars sold in India in the period, while market leader Maruti had 45 percent, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

Emerging Markets

The Datsun brand will help Nissan compete in the lowest price ranges in economies such as India, Russia and Indonesia, which account for about 40 percent of the market, Ghosn has said. The automaker said previously it expects to introduce the Datsun in Indonesia, Russia and South Africa within two years.

Datsun will target first-time buyers upgrading from motorcycles or used cars, allowing the automaker to reach a new market segment, Ghosn said in March 2012. Reviving the Datsun name, even if it’s unfamiliar to consumers in emerging markets, beats starting a new brand, he said.

Nissan plans to more than triple the number of dealerships in India to 350 from 100 in the “medium term,” Trevor Mann, an executive vice president at Nissan, said in an interview today. The automaker will add 30 outlets this year, he said.

The Datsun Go measures 3.785 meters in length and is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, according to the company. That compares with the 242,776-rupee Maruti Alto and the 285,284-rupee Hyundai Eon, both equipped with 0.8-liter engines and measuring 3.4 meters and 3.5 meters in length respectively, according to the companies’ websites.

Compacts and minicars accounted for about 75 percent of passenger-car deliveries in India last year, according to SIAM.

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