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Auto blogWed, 28 Nov 2012
Four years ago, Renault confirmed that it would partner with India's Bajaj Auto to develop a rival to the Tata Nano. At the time, as everyone waited for the Tata Nano to arrive, you could have used a Richter scale to measure the tremors the executive suites of any automaker with an interest in the low end of emerging markets. Then the Nano, still the cheapest car in the world, didn't sell so well - at the end of last year its sales were just six percent of its most conservative projections - and everyone seemed content to let Tata spend the money to figure out if there really was a market for the cheapest car in the world.
Renault believes there is, kind of. Automotive News Europe reports that it will partner with Nissan to build two low-priced cars for emerging markets, one for €3,000 ($3,888 U.S.) and another for €5,000 ($6,400 U.S.). The price of the least expensive offering is nearly $1,400 more than a Nano, which costs $2,500, and that can't be considered a small sum in comparison. But one of the hindsight knocks on the Nano has been that even in emerging markets buyers don't want a car whose biggest lure is that it is cheap; they'd rather give their aspirations a bit more of a workout.
Renault's offerings are scheduled to hit the non-Western market in late 2014, which is coincidentally the same year that will see the return of the budget-minded and emerging-market-specific Datsun nameplate. They'll be built in Renault facilities in Chennai, India, with no mention made of Bajaj this time around.
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."
Nissan's plan for its reborn Datsun sub-brand just got a shot in the arm, as the emerging-market manufacturer has unveiled its first concept car since its resurrection back in 2012. Called the Redi-Go Concept, it looks like a high-riding version of Datsun's recently launched Go hatchback that's been fitted with a few concept car cues (not a bad thing).
The Redi-Go packs LED taillights, Datsun's "D-cut grille" and LED running lights into its Go-inspired body. Funky two-tone 15-inch wheels add a bit of cheek to the overall design, and in our minds look quite good, despite being so small. The ruggedized front and rear bumpers, as well as the sill and wheel arch surrounds add to the Redi-Go's rough-and-tumble aesthetic. We like that Datsun has kept the overall package short, giving the Redi-Go a 92.5-inch wheelbase, rather than creating a lifted version of the upcoming Go+. There are no specific mentions of the Redi-Go's mechanicals, although we'd wager that a production model might share the 1.2-liter engine and five-speed manual found in the standard Go.
While it might be easy to dismiss a concept like the Redi-Go in America, there's no denying its importance to the Indian market, which is decidedly more limited when it comes to available bodystyles. "If we were to make a car like Datsun Redi-Go Concept it would be a segment creator in India, an aspirational car that at the same time is attainable, a car that would be within reach of the first time buyer. This concept shows how serious we are about reinvigorating the market by catering for the needs of a growing class of Indians who have the chance to own a family car that will enable them to enjoy a new sense of independence," said Vincent Cobee, the global head of Datsun.