Friday, May 20, 2022

Nissan pulls the plug on Datsun brand again (for now)

The sun might’ve set on Datsun here in the United States back in the 1980s when the company adopted the Nissan name, but it made a comeback in other markets about a decade ago for low-cost compacts in emerging markets. That comeback is over: Nissan has ceased global production of its Datsun brand. The brand was the brain-child of fugitive ex-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who conceived it as a way to grow the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s footprint in regions such as Russia, India, southeast Asia, and South Africa.

As Automotive News reports reports, the last factory making Datsun vehicles, a plant in Chennai, India, jointly operated with Renault, stopped building them back in March. The Datsun brand hasn’t been killed yet, but all production has stopped. One reason Nissan hasn’t axed the name completely, the article states, is that Nissan is mulling switching it to an emerging-market EV brand.

To be clear, Ghosn’s Datsun should not be confused with that original Datsun brand, whose origins can be traced to 1914, predating Nissan itself, and which birthed cars such as the beloved 240Z. It was sunset in favor of the global Nissan nameplate in 1983. Ghosn revived it in 2013 as a bargain basement label in his quest to expand Renault-Nissan into the largest automaking conglomerate in the world.

Unfortunately, the brand never quite lived up to the goal of 300,000 in sales per year. The AN article also states that the brand sold only 470,000 in total over a span of eight years, with sales in India dropping 40% in 2021 to just 4,296 units according to analyst group LMC Automotive.

The end of Datsun production was planned as part of Nissan’s post-Ghosn revitalization roadmap announced in 2020. No longer pursuing market share at all costs, the focus is returning to improving products that had been subject to lengthy lifespans with few updates.

With the shutdown of Datsun production, another vestige of the Ghosn era comes to a close at Nissan. With talks of Renault considering the sale of some Nissan shares and a newly issued arrest warrant for Ghosn from France, it looks like there will be more coming.

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