Nissan set with new blueprint for Datsun

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

Brand will be promoted aggressively in smaller regions

It was launched with much fanfare two years ago but Datsun has just not taken off in the Indian automotive market.

What was positioned as an affordable entry-level option with the Go and Go+ quickly fizzled out as customers gave Datsun the cold shoulder. Yet, some valuable lessons have been learnt en route for its manufacturer, Nissan, which is gearing up to unveil the brand’s next avatar, Redi-Go, in the coming weeks.

“We are fortunate to have Datsun which can cater to millions of people seeking real four-wheeler mobility. They need something that is global, reliable, cost-effective and still aspirational,” says Guillaume Sicard, President, Nissan India Operations. In a nutshell, these customers will not buy anything even remotely perceived as being cheap.

For the moment, Datsun will be sold in dealerships along with Nissan-branded cars though there are already over 40 exclusive Datsun outlets in smaller cities and towns. Going forward, says Sicard, the ideal business model would be to have separate entrances for the two brands (in neighbouring showrooms) with a common back-office. For this to work, however, volumes are the key which Nissan hopes to generate in the next few years.

According to Sicard, the other critical part of the Datsun strategy is to focus on training, especially relating to brand strategy. “India is evolving so rapidly that it becomes more relevant to talk to prospective buyers about the Datsun brand and explain its legacy instead of just focusing on the car’s features,” he says.

Since Nissan will be more global in the new brand positioning exercise, the sales thrust will be on large cities even though there is a lot of buying power coupled with aspiration in Tier 2/3 regions too. As Sicard puts it, there is “a huge part of India which wants the beauty that the brand is known for across the world”. These customers are keen on accessing Nissan models sold in other countries but are still unavailable here.

It is precisely for this reason that Nissan, as part of a product rethink, will launch the GT-R sportscar and X-Trail Hybrid in India during 2016-17. “Nissan will become more global going forward and you will more high-end products here,” says Sicard.

India will, in fact, be part of a select group of markets (after Japan, Indonesia and Thailand) for the X-Trail Hybrid which pretty much puts in context the renewed importance of the country. It also makes perfect business sense when other promising markets like Brazil and Russia are virtually imploding while China is slowing down.

The other interesting part about the X-Trail Hybrid is that its India launch was decided over a year ago. It was only much later that the Centre announced its decision to have Bharat Stage VI emission norms enforced in the country by 2020.

This is something that pleases Sicard no end especially when the most logical option for Nissan would have been to launch a diesel X-Trail instead. “We are clearly learning quickly and realise that we must be ahead of the curve in this market. This is why we are delighted with the decision on launching the hybrid,” he says. From Nissan’s point of view, anticipating customer behavioural patterns in a competitive arena like India is an important step going forward.

Published on March 29, 2016

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