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Auto blogWed, 18 Sep 2013 08:27:00 EST
The Datsun name may have long since been replaced by Nissan, but the old brand is making a comeback - in certain markets, at least. Nissan relaunched the Datsun brand in July as its new budget brand for developing markets with the debut of the Go hatchback, and has now followed up with the addition of the larger Go+.
Set to be built in Indonesia at Nissan's plant in Purwakarta, the Go+ debuts today in the capital of Jakarta as the second model in the new Datsun lineup. The seven-passenger minivan features flexible seating in a compact form 13 feet long, powered by an unspecified 1.2-liter engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission.
Nissan isn't saying much else about the model, but hopes the new Datsun twins will account for half of its sales in Indonesia within three years. The low price target for both models - set to come in at less than 100 million rupiah ($8,700) - ought to help it get there. The lineup is then scheduled to reach other markets, starting with India, Russia and South Africa next year.
When Nissan revived the Datsun brand name, it essentially hit the "undo" button on the rebranding it undertook decades ago. But this time, the Datsun name is being used solely as a budget brand for developing markets. The reborn marque launched in India this past July with its Go hatchback, returned in September with the Go+ minivan and revealed the Redi-Go concept just last month. And now it's back again with the new On-Do sedan.
Launched in Moscow by CEO Carlos Ghosn, the On-Do was designed and engineered in Japan specifically for the Russian market - Nissan's fifth largest worldwide - where it will be built at the AvtoVaz plant in Togliatti. Decidedly budget-oriented, the Datsun On-Do is a four-door, five-seat econo-box measuring 172 inches long, 67 inches wide and 60 inches tall with an 18.7 cubic-foot trunk which Datsun describes as class-leading. Punctuating an otherwise bland shape is a large front grille and lighting front and rear that looks (and very well might be) bigger than the wheels.
Not that the Datsun On-Do needs a big contact patch to transfer power to the road: motivation is provided by a 1.6-liter engine with a grand total of - wait for it... wait a little longer - 87 horsepower. Which might strike you as a reasonable amount of muscle, considering the 400,000 rubles Datsun is getting for the On-Do (but consider that translates to about $11,300). That's a couple grand more than what Nissan gets for the Micra in that other giant northern country, or about the same amount it gets for the Versa in the US (which sells in Russia for 499k in rubles) - both of which are powered by what is in all likelihood the same 1.6-liter four but producing 109 hp. Of course Russia has different tax rates than the United States or Canada, but with such little power, the Datsun would fall into Russia's lowest tax bracket.
You can add Fiat to the admittedly short list of automakers considering a low-cost brand to rival Dacia. The inexpensive Eastern European brand from Renault-Nissan has performed on the balance sheet like a premium model line, and the money the alliance is taking off the table is encouraging other players to deal themselves in. Pretty soon Nissan's Datsun sub-brand will join the Dacia party, going on sale in Russia, Indonesia and India and will claim even more rubles, rupiahs and rupees for the parent company. Volkswagen recently said it will make a decision this year on a budget line for the Chinese market. With the euthanasia of Lancia and plans to move the Fiat brand upmarket, company CEO Sergio Marchionne wonders aloud to Automotive News Europe whether there could be room for a new budget brand underneath Fiat.
We're told that the initiative has been in the idea box for five years and even moved to the stage of name considerations, like Innocenti, but worries about profit kept it from realization. If such a range were to be developed, Marchionne says it couldn't be built in Italy and stay within budget, and the company is "analyzing its manufacturing capacity outside of Europe to see if a low-cost brand is viable."