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April 26, 2022

Nissan Kills Off Datsun Brand (Again)

Datsun, revived in 2013 as a low-cost emerging market brand, is dead once more after parent company, Nissan decided to pull the plug on global production.

The last plant producing Datsun vehicles has ended production of the cars, less than a decade after former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn resurrected the brand with grand visions of mass volume. The Chennai, India, joint venture operated by Nissan and its French alliance partner Renault, ceased output of the Datsun Redi-Go five-door subcompact (see lead photo) last month.

The move closes a chapter on Datsun that once saw the brand’s vehicles produced and sold in Russia and Indonesia, in addition to India. Datsun output in Indonesia and Russia ended in 2020. Datsun cars were also sold in South Africa, among other select markets.

Winding down the brand was part of the Nissan Next revival plan unveiled in 2020. The goal was to focus on the company’s core brands, mass-market Nissan and premium player Infiniti.

Datsun traces its roots to 1931. The name was used by Nissan for export markets including the U.S. and Europe. The Japanese upstart made a splash some five decades ago as the public face of Nissan with its badge on the first-generation 240Z sports car.

The Datsun name was dropped in favor of Nissan in 1983. The move was meant to fortify Nissan’s global corporate image. Dealers in the U.S. initially rebelled against the idea. But four decades later, a whole generation of Americans has grown up never knowing the brand.

Ghosn revived Datsun as an entry-offering in a bid to scoop up what was predicted to be booming business in emerging markets by using older alliance technology to create affordable cars for the new middle classes who might otherwise have bought second-hand models. Sales of the rechristened Datsun began in 2014.

At the time of the reboot, Nissan targeted global volume of 300,000 units a year. But sales never blossomed in line with optimistic forecasts. Since Datsun’s reintroduction, the brand sold about 470,000 vehicles cumulatively over the years.

In 2021, sales in India alone dropped 40 percent to 4,296 units. In 2017, by contrast, the brand moved 40,443 vehicles in the subcontinent.

Nissan is still debating what to do with the brand name. One option might be keeping it on tap for use someday as an emerging market electric vehicle brand.

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