By Justin Berkowitz
This is the first new Datsun in, well, about three decades. A Datsun? You mean the brand that:
- Built that fun 280Z I had until it morphed from car into rust?
- Turned into Nissan?
- I’ve only heard of because of the profanity-laden car-rental scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles?
Yeah, that Datsun. Except that the new Datsun Go is probably not very fun, probably rustproofed, and a Nissan turned into it. The idea is to sell the five-door hatchback in India, Indonesia, South Africa, and Russia for about the same price as a smaller car from a more mainstream brand. It’s not an original idea. Renault, which is half-merged with Nissan and shares Carlos Ghosn as a CEO, has raked in millions with its cheap ‘n’ rugged Dacia brand.
The Go is definitely simple. It sits on Nissan’s Type-V platform, which also underpins the Micra, a Fiesta-sized car that Nissan sells around the world in countries where the Versa is considered not-tiny. Motivation comes from a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine—horsepower number not named yet, but two digits are guaranteed—and a five-speed manual transmission. A radio is optional, or, in its place, a clever dock for a smartphone that hooks into the car’s speaker system. And, um, that’s kind of it.
For the industry-interested among you, a few points merit attention. First, we’re unclear why Mr. Ghosn needed to resurrect the Datsun name for this car; Nissan doesn’t exactly have a high-class reputation around the world that would be ruined with a budget model like this. And name aside, why reinvent the budget car? There’s already an entire range of Dacias, and if there’s a compulsion to sell them as Nissans or Datsuns, a logo will glue to the front pretty easily. (In fact, Nissan already sells rebadged Dacias, like the Duster-cum-Terrano.)
Lastly, look at where Datsun is being sold initially: South Africa, India, Indonesia. Similarity? They’re all developing markets with expanding middle classes, sure, but they’re all right-hand-drive. They also are countries where many shoppers prefer sedans, and that is strong enough that it has forced a number of companies to turn small hatchbacks into stumpy little sedans. Datsun is going to need a sedan stat, and an automatic transmission, too. Although left-hand-drive versions are coming for the Russian market, Ghosn told us recently that he’s not in a rush to roll out Datsun around the world. He wasn’t even enthusiastic about his home country of Brazil, which is the archetype market for low-cost cars like this.
And the U.S.? Forget about it. Datsun is just history.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Car & Driver