Reports are circulating that Nissan will soon undergo a massive restructuring plan and on the chopping block is the Datsun, revived in 2013 as a low-cost brand in developing countries. It was one of former CEO Carlos Ghosn’s crowning achievements during his tenure at Nissan, but it hasn’t panned out exactly as he had hoped.
The most recent launch of the Datsun brand — the third in Nissan history — came about with much fanfare in 2013 as part of then-CEO Carlos Ghosn’s aggressive plans for global growth. It was meant to grab market share in what Ghosn called “rising” nations, debuting in India and soon expanding to Russia, Indonesia, and South Africa. Incredibly, Ghosn predicted that the brand could account for half of Nissan’s sales by 2016.
That never happened. In India the main selling point of Datsun cars, affordability, was seen as a demerit. Buyers didn’t want what was perceived as a cheap, “stripped-down version of a Nissan” according to Marketwatch. The same article says that during its first 10 months, Datsun sold only about 1,500 per month, quite short of the 5,000 per month target. By the end of 2019, Datsun models were only selling a few hundred units per month, getting absolutely destroyed by Hyundai, Maruti-Suzuki, and even Nissan’s own corporate partner Renault.
Now, Nissan is facing a sales collapse, exacerbated by a regulatory scandal, financial misconduct at the top, and worldwide automotive production grinding to a halt amidst the coronavirus pandemic. However, Nissan’s woes began long before COVID-19, with a decline in sales that started three years ago, the result of Ghosn’s unsustainable expansion. His all-out desire for market share was stretching Nissan too thin, diverting resources from vital areas of the business (Infiniti, anyone?).
So, after seven years the Datsun name will be killed off once again, Autoblog reports, as part of the “performance recovery plan,” as it is called internally. Also included in the plan is the closing of excess production capacity, as well as budget cuts in research and marketing. The Titan full-size pickup is almost certainly dead, too.
The origins of the Datsun name can be traced back to 1914, to the company that would eventually become Nissan, and a car called the DAT. Named by combining the names of the three primary investors, Den, Aoyama, and Takeuichi, the first car to wear the Datsun name was a 1930 prototype. Originally, they wanted to call it DAT-son, but because son can mean “loss” in Japanese, it was changed to Datsun.
When Nissan expanded into western markets, so the story goes, they used the name Datsun so that the Nissan name wouldn’t be tainted if the cars failed miserably. After models like the 510 and 240Z helped the company become a resounding success, Nissan started to phase out Datsun in 1981 and the rest is history. Now, once again, Datsun will fall so Nissan can thrive.