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Datsun's lackluster initial sales fall below Tata Nano

Wed, 15 Oct 2014

When Tata introduced the Nano back in 2008, everyone was amazed at how cheap it was. They called it a game changer, but no game was changed. In fact, it took Tata five years to sell the 250,000 units it had the capacity to build in a single year. As it turns out, even buyers in what economists call "developing markets" like India aren't necessarily interested in buying an ultra-cheap automobile. And now it appears that Nissan may be falling into the same trap.

A little over a year ago, Nissan revived its old moniker Datsun to serve as a budget brand – similar to what ally Renault did with Dacia. Its lineup (consisting of models like the Go hatchback, Go+ minivan, On-Do sedan and Mi-Do hatch) is largely based on old architecture, packaged with little more than basic equipment and sold at rock-bottom prices. But Bloomberg reports that, even in the brand's core markets like India and Indonesia, the new Datsuns haven't been selling.

According to local industry figures, Datsun has sold fewer than 10,000 units of its $5,100 Go hatchbacks in India since its introduction back in March. Maruti Suzuki, by comparison, sells twice that many of its similarly priced Alto hatchbacks every month. In fact, after peaking in April, Datsun only sold 607 units in India this past July, dipping 77 percent to drop below even the number of Nanos which Tata sold that month.

That could be bad news for CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has pledged to increase Nissan's global market share by one-third to eight percent by March 2017. The news could get even worse if the market continues to shrink as expected in Russia, another cornerstone market for the Dacia brand and where the notion of buying a Romanian-made Dacia has, according to our contacts at Renault, proven unpopular.

It is, of course, too early to predict how Datsun will perform in the long run. The brand is still new and may need some time to gain public recognition and market share. Otherwise, we may have another Tata Nano on our hands: an astonishingly cheap car that no one actually wants to buy.

By Noah Joseph

See also: Nissan recalls over 220k Altima sedans over hoods that could fly open, Nissan Altima and Sentra to get Murano-inspired design redo, The Carlos and Dieter Show promises more collaboration.