It's a Go: Nissan brings back Datsun name

The first new Datsun in 30 years , the Go, aimed at developing nations, will go on sale in India in 2014, starting at an eye-popping $6,500.
The first new Datsun in 30 years , the Go, aimed at developing nations, will go on sale in India in 2014, starting at an eye-popping $6,500.
Posted: September 01, 2013

Do you remember when a Nissan was called a Datsun?

If you do, you'll also recall that magical marketing moment in the early '80s when Nissan Motor Co. spent a Dumpster full of money on an advertising blitz informing us that it was now calling the Datsun a Nissan.

Well, guess what? After a 30-year entombment, Nissan has rolled away the stone at the entrance to the Datsun Sepulchre and resurrected the nameplate.

The Datsun will be a low-priced line for third-world customers who can't afford the vehicles built by Nissan and others for buyers in developed countries.

The first Datsun, a subcompact five-door hatchback called the Go, will go on sale early next year in India. Vincent Cobee, global vice president for Datsun, told me the car will start at a mere $6,500!

"We want to provide an answer to the emerging middle classes in developing countries where Nissan did not play," Cobee explained. He said these customers, whom he called "risers," will be typically first-time buyers who will have to spend one to two years of gross income to buy a $6,500 car. (That two-year buyer would be like an American with a $50,000 annual income buying a $100,000 car.)

The Go will go on sale in Indonesia and Russia after its Indian debut. South Africa will follow.

The Go is a spunky hatchback that feels quite roomy for a subcompact. It is based on a Japanese market car called the Micra and is powered by a 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder engine whose as-yet-unannounced horsepower rating is expected to be well under 100.

You're probably wondering by now why this small hatchback will cost less than half as much as the Nissan Versa your neighbor bought. There are several reasons for that incredible base price:

1. You can take a lot of money out of a car's cost if you take out a lot of content. And in these third-world markets, with government regulations and customer expectations about as well-developed as their economies, the Go can be built without a good deal of the safety gear and amenities found in U.S. cars. Some examples: It has no air bags, ABS, or stability control. A radio is optional.

2. The cars will be sourced and assembled in the countries where they are sold, meaning labor costs will be a lot lower than in the developed world. You also avoid any import taxes.

3. They will be offered only with a 5-speed manual gearbox. "The cost of a manual transmission is one-third to one-half of what an automatic costs," Cobee noted.

Also divulged at a recent Nissan show-and-tell:

Nissan has started building its long-awaited "New York City Taxi of Tomorrow" in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and will start delivering it this fall.

Based on Nissan's small cargo van, the NV200, the cab is a thoughtful vehicle designed for New York City, but it's obviously suited for use elsewhere. Its features include a first-ever crash-tested partition, room for four passengers and their luggage, a passenger TV screen, sliding doors, a driver-passenger intercom, and a passenger charging station for mobile phones and electronic devices.

The NYC cab starts at $29,700.

And Nissan will field an all-new version of its Titan full-size pickup that will be available with a brand-new Cummins 5-liter diesel V-8.

By offering a turbo diesel like the domestic pickups, Nissan hopes to win the hearts and minds of a significant number of U.S. truck buyers.

Fred Diaz, Nissan's vice president for sales and marketing, told me the company polled 300,000 domestic buyers and found that 17 percent of them would consider a Titan if it were available with a Cummins turbo diesel.


Contact Al Haas at alhaasauto@aol.com.

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