In less than a week from now, Nissan will be all set to showcase the Datsun Go-Cross concept at the Delhi Auto Expo. The company had first taken the wraps off this car at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, last October.

Clearly, things have changed dramatically for Datsun as a brand since the time it entered India in 2014. The mood was a lot more buoyant then and expectations were naturally sky-high. As part of the plan to resurrect the brand, Datsun was launched in India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa.

Seeking attention

During the Yokohama unveiling, top officials of Nissan reiterated that it had received “varying degrees of success” across markets. “We have started to get some traction though the speed varies from market to market,” one of them said.

In Indonesia, the Go and Go+ are pitted against Suzuki and Daihatsu where they have emerged a good alternative. In Russia, the strategy has been different and even though the economy has collapsed, the brand continues to be relevant. In South Africa, the products have been imported from India and “are slowly getting traction”.

Yet, the concern is India where the going has not been easy for the Go and Go+. Nissan officials in Japan admitted that the company needed to perhaps make a “little more noise to get attention”. While there is confidence that Datsun has the potential to grow, there is growing realisation that this is going to take longer than what the company had first envisaged. “We have the right products in the right markets but just need to work hard and get the momentum,” an official said. By the end of the day, Nissan is a big global player with sales of over five million vehicles annually. It will be hoping that Datsun will eventually connect with the customer and grow in emerging markets. “People in India want value for money and not anything cheap. We are learning something new everyday,” added the official.


One of these lessons has perhaps resulted in the Go-Cross concept first unveiled at Yokohama. The company has positioned it as the cool crossover targeted at youth.

The Go-Cross, to that extent, is dramatically different from what Datsun was originally conceived as a no-frills brand. Today, it is youngsters who form the core buyer base in markets like India.

Where Datsun had first made a connect with customers in the 40 plus age group, the challenge is to reach out to those in their mid-20s who are ready to loosen their purse strings for a not-so-successful brand. As Global Head of Datsun, Vincent Cobee will be extra keen to drive home the message of modern Japanese technology to an emerging middle class.

“Everything we do in life is half empty and half full. We could have done worse and my belief is you can keep improving. If you don’t learn, you will die in this industry,” he had said at the Yokohama unveiling. Nissan intends to bring “greater emotion” into Datsun through its campaigns which will be more vibrant keeping the young customer in mind.

Cobee had also made known then that Datsun would now have to go beyond its four targeted markets to the ASEAN region with Indonesia possibly as the nodal plant. Thanks to free trade pacts, shipments could be conceived to markets like the Philippines and Myanmar. India could, in its turn, double up as the feeder to Africa, Latin America and the Gulf.

From Nissan’s point of view, Datsun just cannot afford to slip up again since there is a lot at stake in terms of numbers and market share. The world is also not in great shape either with Brazil and Russia especially vulnerable while China is slowing down too.

India is today the bright star on the horizon which also explains why other carmakers are betting big here. Brand Datsun will have to contend with intense competition from a fiercely combative Maruti and Hyundai. Nissan will now be keeping its fingers crossed for something similar with Datsun.