Nissan May Revive Datsun Brand

Speaking of reviving dormant nameplates, word from Japan’s Nikkei business daily newspaper is that Nissan is considering a revival of the Datsun name.  The report has not been confirmed publicly by Nissan, but the key point is that unlike the last time we had a Datsun brand, this time it won’t be sold in North America.  It will be sold in Russia, India, and Indonesia.

When Nissan began selling vehicles in the US around 1960 under the leadership of Yutaka Katayama (also known as “Mr. K.”, the company’s leadership elected to use the Datsun brand name because the name Nissan evoked memories of Nissan’s extensive contributions to the Japanese war machine during the Japanese imperial era prior to and during World War II. The company was concerned that former American servicemen – those who would be in prime car-buying age in the early sixties – would harbor hard feelings toward a Nissan-branded vehicle.

The Datsun name lived on through the 60s and 70s, but corporate Nissan began to be bothered by the fact that Toyota and Honda had their corporate names on their US-sold vehicles, while Nissan was stuck with the Datsun brand name.  This lack of prestige, whether real or imagined, led the company to initiate a re-branding campaign that spanned several years.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Datsuns were badged as “Datsun by Nissan,” and by 1984, the Nissan name took precedence over Datsun, with the Datsun name finally fading off into the sunset in the US market.  By 1986, the Datsun name was no longer used on any new Nissan vehicles.

Fast forward to the current story, and the plan is not to replace “Nissan” with “Datsun,” but rather to use the Datsun name for a low-cost sub-brand whose vehicles would be sold only in the aforementioned emerging markets.  If the rumor comes true, the neo-Datsuns will be sold in the $5,000 to $6,000 range.  Not exactly Tata Nano territory (and the Tata Nano isn’t exactly tearing up the sales charts) but also far from even the cheapest US-sold new car (which is apparently the $11,750 Nissan Versa).  As low-cost (and “cost optimized”) as we found the Versa in US trim, imagine a car about the same size for half the price.

Nissan is said to be projecting global Datsun sales of approximately 300,000 units per year.  Many of them will ride on the Versa’s new low-buck V-platform, but those sold in Russia may have AvtoVaz underpinnings instead.

Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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  1. Really, Datsun? Why not use Dacia instead, to build on the Nissan/Renault alliance’s OTHER emerging-markets brand… one that already has some brand acceptance? It isn’t like Nissan doesn’t make entry level cars under its own name in other markets… think of the Nissan Tsuru in Mexico, a 90s era Sentra minus all comfort and safety equipment. Seems like Nissan’s money could be better spent on the engineering of these entry-level cars instead of on trotting out a dusty old brand.

  2. Strange. It’s not like the Datsun brand name has any brand equity in those places. Reviving MG or Triumph makes a certain amount of sense because people that are familiar with those brands still associate certain positive attributes to those brand names.

  3. They must feel that the Datsun brand still holds credibility. If they didn’t, they would have simply come up with a new brand name altogether. Perhaps it is a nostalgia thing.

  4. Wonder if this has anything to do with Dacia, owned by Renault, which is the partner of Nissan in the Renault-Nissan alliance. Renault via Dacia, and Dacia by itself, sell low cost vehicles in Europe and in emerging markets.

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