2 Years After Revival, Datsun Gets Ready for a Go at Alto
Sharmistha Mukherjee & J Srikant
New Delhi: Datsun, the brand that Nissan revived after three decades in 2013, is hoping to catch the sales momentum it so far missed, with the redi-GO compact car getting ready to hit the roads in June. In India, it is targeting the market that Maruti Suzuki’s Alto commands, selling about 20,000 units a month.
Datsun is being sold in India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. Combined sales in these markets grew more than 70% to about 86,000 cars in 2015 from 50,000 the year before, but are way off the targets Nissan had set for the brand. Under Nissan's Power 88 plan for 2016, it estimated Datsun to bring in significant incremental volumes. In India, the aim was to sell 2 lakh units a year by 2016-17, but cumulative sales in the past two years haven’t crossed 50,000. The company wants to change that now.
“We are a two-year-old brand. We could have done better with sales of the GO but our understanding of the market is evolving,” said Guillau- me Sicard, president-operations at Nissan India. “With the redi-GO, we will target the Alto segment. We will ramp up our distribution and increase network coverage to target customers.”
Guillaume said though Indian customers, especially at the entry-level, often prefer established brands, the success of vehicles like the Renault Kwid has shown there is “room to break away from tradition if the right product is offered at the right price.” The Kwid has recorded booking of more than 1 lakh cars since Renault, Nissan’s alliance partner, launched the hatchback six months ago. On Thursday, Datsun made the global premiere of the redi-GO in New Delhi. Its top competitors will be the Alto 800 and Hyundai Eon, which are priced between .₹ 2.5 lakh and .₹ 4.4 lakh.
Sicard said while the acceptance of Datsun products has been good in India, brand awareness is an issue. “We are selling Datsun in South Africa, Russia, Indonesia and India. Unlike in other markets, Datsun is a new brand in India. Our customers are satisfied. We were ambitious in setting our targets given it’s a new brand and we had to start from scratch. We are now looking at a 5% market share between Datsun and Nissan by 2020,” he said.
To realise it objective of selling 2.5 lakh vehicles (both Nissan and Datsun) per annum in the next four years in India, the company is working on enhancing the reach and network coverage. In the current fiscal year, Nissan plans to add 80 outlets, a number of which will be for Datsun. Nissan is aiming to have 300 outlets by the year-end. “There is definitely potential for Datsun to scale up. But right now there product portfolio is limited when compared to competition,” said Abdul Majeed, partner at Price Waterhouse. “They need multiple products in a segment to grow brand recall. Datsun also needs to work on its distribution to be present across urban and rural pockets. Besides, good after-market is crucial to gain customer trust and acceptance.”
The redi-GO is the third vehicle under the revived Datsun brand and has come up on a new platform developed in India. Last year, the auto maker launched a compact multi-purpose vehicle, GO+, to add to small car GO. The company is expanding its portfolio to target customers in small towns to boost sales of its Datsun brand of vehicles.