As for frugality, experts say Renault-Nissan should tread cautiously

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault-Nissan, plans to visit India next year to unveil the Datsun K2 prototype. The event is scheduled to be held in Delhi at the end of July, top sources told Business Line.

Ghosn announced revival of the Datsun brand early this year to herald Nissan’s entry in the low-cost segment across select emerging markets. The countries being earmarked for this project are India, Indonesia and Russia.

The K2 being unveiled in India will be part of the “B plus” small car segment (upwards of Rs 4 lakh), which comprises models such as Suzuki Swift, Ford Figo, Toyota Etios (Liva) and Honda Brio. The I2, which will follow some months later, will enter the Alto and Eon price categoryover Rs 2.5 lakh.

Both cars will be showcased at the Delhi Auto Expo in January 2014. Keeping them company will be the K2 seven-seater MPV (multipurpose vehicle). The commercial launch of each of these cars is expected in mid-2014.

The fact that Ghosn is going to be personally present for the K2 unveiling next year pretty much sums up the importance of India in the overall scheme of things, sources say.

The Renault-Nissan CEO has constantly acknowledged the country’s frugal engineering skills. which has produced cars like the Nano. In fact, it was the Tata people’s car that prompted Renault-Nissan to kick off the ULC (ultra low-cost car) project with Bajaj Auto at a similar price point of sub-Rs 2 lakh.

Sources say Indonesia could be the next stopover for the unveiling of the K2 seven-seater, keeping in mind market preference for MPVs. This is likely to happen towards October 2013. Russia is also on the radar as part of the Datsun brand strategy, but this could take the form of a low-cost SUV.

Nissan’s lowest priced car in India is the Micra, which starts off at Rs 4.2 lakh (average ex-showroom price), and going all the way to Rs 6.3 lakh. It will be interesting to see how the company balances its product portfolio here with the Datsun K2 and I2 whose affordability will be touted as their biggest strengths.

Yet, observers caution that this message should not be overdone beyond a point.

Indian customers love to have features in their cars. While mileage continues to be priority, they would not mind paying more for a smart car, they say. To that extent, frugal engineering is just fine except that it should not result in cutting corners excessively.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 17, 2012)
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