To begin with, let’s offer a pinch of perspective about the emerging markets that Nissan is planning on reintroducing the Datsun to. Back in 2010, 808 people out of 1,000 owned a car here in the U.S. In India, only 38 did. As an automotive executive, that 770 person gap makes your mouth water (and makes environmentalists very nervous at the same time).
Nissan will offer six new Datsun models at the start of 2014 in developing countries such as India to try and fill that pent up demand, selling minimalistic Datsuns for the ultra-low price of $3000.
How can a profit-maximizing company get away with selling a car this cheaply? (Sidenote…analysts peg development costs for a new vehicle at $1 billion; initial Nissan plans call for a $3,000-$5,000 Datsun price range. 250,000 Datsuns would need to be sold just to break even on development costs if you assume a $4,000 average price. Which I did, so you should, too.)
Neglect comfort and safety features! New Datsuns will only have manual transmissions, noisy and vibrating exhaust systems, and a laid-back approach to quality control in safety. The gas pedal sticks? No side air bags? Cranky steering wheels? Who cares!?!? You’re getting the car for $3,000, ya maroon!
Francois Bacon, Nissan’s general manager of product strategy, articulates it best: “The notion of safety? Believe me. They are very flexible about this.”
They being the people buying the cars in the emerging markets. Nissan currently offers an $8,000 Tsuru compact in Mexico, so Nissan knows cheap cars and developing markets.
About what you’d expect for $8k in new car.
Nissan wants to reclaim global market share; the company is responsible for only 6% of global sales today. Back in 1981, the Datsun was the second-best selling foreign brand in the U.S. Americans bought 580,000 of them that year before Nissan replaced the Datsun name with Nissan, confusing dealers, consumers and probably their own employees. Nissan longs for those Americana days, though there’s no way us Americans would settle for such a poorly built vehicle. Consequently, Datsuns will ONLY be sold in emerging countries.
Has anyone thought about the infrastructure problems this will cause in developing countries? The traffic or the pollution? The endless headaches and arguments? Provided you had the means of $3,000 to spend, why wouldn’t you buy a new car for the first time?
Which is, of course, the scary part. Maybe Nissan should have created the Datsun golf cart. Quieter, more efficient, and a lot safer than what is proposed.
A whole country of golf cart commuters! Everyone would feel like they’re on vacation.