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.