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‘If we convince the Indian buyer this is a good car, Datsun Go has a world market’

S. Muralidhar New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 15, 2013

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nissan Motor Co, Carlos Ghosn, at the unveiling of the Datsun Go at Gurgaon (Haryana) on Monday. - Ramesh Sharma

"The more you work with local (Indian) partners, the more you are able to focus your product to the needs of the buyer." — Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO, Nissan Motor Company

Carlos Ghosn, President and CEO of Nissan Motor Company, has been personally involved with the conception and development of the Datsun GO. With his famed desire to capture the frugal engineering capabilities in India to develop a low-cost car, the unveiling of the Datsun GO on Monday would have been a special moment for him. He spoke to Business Line on the sidelines of the unveiling ceremony. Excerpts:

There has been a lot of going back to basics during the development of this car. What were some of the aspects that were considered to make the brand relevant?

Much more going to the roots of what the Datsun brand represents than going back. The Datsun brand has always stood for reliability and trustworthiness. The brand's cars gave buyers what they wanted in a modern and technologically efficient package. The success of the Datsun brand hinged on these qualities. That is how 20 million cars were sold in more than 190 countries with the Datsun badge till 1981.

Now, it is faced with these high-growth markets like India, Russia, Indonesia and South Africa, where people are asking for a car they can afford and trust, particularly those buying a car for the first time. They want a car that is fun, reliable and sporting modern technology – not something that is 25 years old. Affordability can come at the cost of technology. So, these buyers are looking for a car that they can be proud of.

These are the fundamental values of the Datsun brand and so the brand and product are linked. We chose India because in our opinion it is still one of the highest potential car markets of the world. And the Indian consumer is extremely smart, demanding and value conscious. So, if we can convince the Indian car buyer that this is a good car, then the Datsun Go has a world market. So, we are starting with the most difficult market there is.

What did you learn from your previous experiences in India?

India is a complex country and no one can hope to learn and understand everything about this market in one go. We have learnt from our experiences with Renault, for example, which started with a very low level of sales, to the current success it is having with the Duster. I can say that Renault-Nissan is a much more successful company now compared to three years ago. This year we should end with about five per cent market share between the two brands.

If you make mistakes in this market, you need to learn from them and correct them. The point that we have learnt is also that the more you work with local partners, designers, planners and engineers etc, the more you are able to focus your product intimately to the needs and desires of the buyer. You can't hope to do it all in France or Japan and then ship it here. And I am very proud of the fact that the alliance has been more into this learning curve in India. There has to be give and take between the company and the local community.

With so much being done locally, how are you going to achieve economies of scale? And how much of the work will be done in India?

First, maybe the technology is going to be developed in India. The platforms, the basic elements are going to be developed in India. But when we head to other markets, we are not planning to ship the cars, because when we ship the cars it is only a temporary move to stock the market. This comes at a price. Being local is the strategy that will work in these markets. But I don't think there is going to be any market as local as India, where we are doing everything from developing the platforms to engineering to manufacturing. All the suppliers are local Indian vendors. When we go to the other high-growth markets, we are going to adopt the same principle. But still the technology will come from our Indian research and technology centre.

Most car manufacturers who came to India adopted a top-down approach. You are probably going to do a bottom-up approach with Datsun. Are you worried about the effect this might have on the Datsun brand, especially in markets such as the US and Europe, if and when Datsun goes there?

We are not planning to put the Datsun brand in the US or Western European markets. We are not intending to go there now.

We are focusing on the high-growth markets and we all know which countries these are.

I think every time you have an approach that is not top-down or bottom-up, but more back and forth, you get a two-way arrangement that helps the brand eventually. That is the reward that the Datsun brand is now reaping in the form of frugal engineering, which is this concept of value at the heart of the brand. That is the reason we are starting here in India.

Published on July 15, 2013
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