In a bid to aggressively compete against the top three Indian car makers, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and Hyundai, Nissan is working on a slew of small car projects to be introduced in India under a new brand Datsun, starting 2014.
These low-cost cars from Datsun will fight for space in the price bracket of Rs 2-4 lakh, where the country's highest selling model, Maruti Suzuki Alto, currently sells. Hyundai's entry level car, Eon, and Tata Motors' Indica also sell in the space.
Nissan says the company is on course to launch two such models in 2014, and will progressively look at adding products at similar price points later. Datsun products will utilise Nissan and Renault's installed capacity at Chennai.
Nissan, the second largest automotive brand in Japan, is the second such company in India after Volkswagen to have refrained from entering into the low-cost segment using its own brand. Nissan-badged vehicles will sell above the Rs 4 lakh price tag in India.
Besides India, the Japanese company is looking to share the Datsun brand, which was progressively discontinued 25 years back, in emerging markets like Indonesia and Russia. Matured markets like the US, Japan and western European markets are not chosen for launching the Datsun brand.
Products under Datsun will have their unique platforms, besides their own vehicle technology. These products will be market specific, with limited or no scope for exports. Though Nissan officials did not provide details about Datsun's product plans, market reports say that one of the two products could be the one which is under development with a subsidiary of Ashok Leyland.
Ashwani Gupta, programme director, Datsun Business Unit, said, "The Datsun brand will be catering to the affordable segment with modern technology and generous features. These models will be developed locally and have a high local content and engineering."
Targeting first-time buyers, Datsun's products will be aimed at buyers of used car or motorcycle. Hover Automotive, which handles sales, service and distribution of Nissan-branded cars in India, will also sell the Datsun brand. Thus, both brands will be sold under the same roof. Nissan is targeting about half of its sales to emerge under the Datsun brand. Product line-up and investment details will be disclosed at a later date, informed a Nissan official.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive, Nissan Motor Company, said, "It's not going to be a global brand with global products; it's going to be a global brand with very specific products adapted to market needs. We want to bring something much more modern."
Introduced in Japan in 1931, the Datsun brand established a strong foothold for the Japanese car maker in the all-important US market, beginning in the 1960s. But the nameplate was completely discontinued by 1986 globally in favour of the Nissan brand.
With the entry of Datsun, Nissan's entry level car will be Micra (priced at Rs 4.21 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi). Among other models, Nissan also sells Sunny, Teana, Xtrail and the 370Z in India.