Nissan set to open design centre in Chennai

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 15, 2018

Designers from Japan and India will be part of this outfit

Nissan Motor will inaugurate its India design centre in Chennai over the next few weeks.

“This will be an independent centre with our own designers coming in from Japan. We have also started to recruit Indian designers to be trained in the Nissan way,” Guillaume Sicard, President, Nissan India Operations, told BusinessLine.

The move is a clear reflection of the Japanese automaker’s intent to grow its presence here rapidly in the coming years. Its global ally, Renault, also has a design centre in Chennai with a smaller outfit based in Mumbai.

Chennai is home to the Renault-Nissan manufacturing alliance and the location makes sense for the design operations too, since people here will be closely involved with their R&D counterparts. Unlike Renault which has had two successful products in the form of the Duster and Kwid, Nissan still has not been able to get a breakthrough offering in place yet.

Yet, India is too big a market to ignore and the top priority is to get a five per cent market share at the earliest. This is where the Nissan design centre will play a big role in helping out with quicker product development and ensuring that numbers grow in the coming years.

“We need to quickly work on the future of Nissan in India and this is where the five per cent market share becomes the minimum level to prepare ourselves,” says Sicard. For a brand which is strong in markets like the US, Europe and China, there is no reason why it cannot replicate this in India.

Betting big on Datsun

One reality to contend with here is the overwhelming presence of two car brands (Maruti and Hyundai) which take up 70 per cent of the market.

It is here that Nissan is betting big on the Datsun brand to take the story forward. The first two offerings may not have set the market afire but the redi-GO launched last June has got reasonably good volumes with March recording over 3,000 units in sales.

“Datsun was the fastest growing brand here in 2016 and will evolve with better design and pricing in cars. People in India are bound to have more disposable income and Datsun will keep pace with this change. It will offer tremendous value-for-money in term of design, features and cost of ownership,” says Sicard.

It is quite likely that the Nissan design centre will focus on this evolutionary role of Datsun which may extend to quick growing segments like compact SUVs.

“For us, Datsun represents access to four-wheel mobility with good design and functionalities along with the best-in-class price and cost of ownership,” he adds. Nissan, on the other hand, will be the more premium global brand for India with loads of technology to offer.

Sicard also believes Nissan is a far more mature organisation than what it was three years ago when he took charge. “We have good talent, processes and better co-ordination between teams. We now need new products and are on the right track,” he says.

The Nissan management has now figured out that it takes time getting used to India’s diversity and that “it is not one country” where the best way forward is to “find a commonality and work from there”.

Sicard is now set to bid the country adieu as he prepares to take on a new leadership role at Renault in the Asia-Pacific region with focus on China and South Korea as well as Japan, ASEAN and Australia.

Published on April 19, 2017

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