Datsun’s revival is stalling

Sluggish sales may cause Nissan to miss global targets

Nissan relaunched its old Datsun brand last year as a budget car for emerging markets, concentrating in the short term on Russia, India and Indonesia – markets where the Japanese giant sees the most potential for growth. It was expected that Datsun would eventually make up around half of Nissan group sales in those markets, and it's a key part of Nissan's '88' plan to achieve an eight per cent market share and eight per cent profit margins by 2017.

The trouble is that it isn't working, at least not yet. In the Russian market, which was supposed to have been one of the biggest for Datsun, sales have stalled thanks to the sanctions imposed by the US and Europe over the political situation in Ukraine. Worse still, since the Datsun Go hatchback went on sale in India in March, Nissan has thus far been able to shift fewer than 10,000 units. To put that in perspective, Indian-based Maruti Suzuki sells about as many of its Alto hatchbacks in a few weeks.

According to analysts, the failure of the Datsun brand in emerging markets thus far is simply that people don't want to be seen driving a car that's designed to be cheap and non-aspirational. It also gives the wider Renault-Nissan Alliance something of a headache – the group also owns two other budget car brands; Dacia and Lada and finding a balancing act that allows all three to proper could be tricky.