Nissan reviving Datsun brand in India, other emerging markets

TOKYO Fri Mar 2, 2012 2:39pm IST

Workers clean windows next to a Nissan Motor Co.'s vehicle, displayed outside the company's showroom in Yokohama, south of Tokyo February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files

Workers clean windows next to a Nissan Motor Co.'s vehicle, displayed outside the company's showroom in Yokohama, south of Tokyo February 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao/Files

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) plans to revive the Datsun nameplate to sell inexpensive cars tailored for emerging markets from 2014, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday, as the Japanese automaker revs up its efforts to tap fast-growth countries.

Nissan's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, has spoken of the high potential of the Datsun brand, under which most of Nissan's cars and trucks were sold outside Japan since the company's inception in 1934. Nissan quit using the Datsun brand in 1981, but it remains a household name in the United States, the Middle East and many parts of Asia.

Japan's No.2 automaker plans to offer Datsun vehicles priced around 500,000 yen first in India, Indonesia and Russia, tailoring them to local needs, the Nikkei said. It hopes to sell 300,000 Datsuns a year soon, the paper said, without citing sources.

A Nissan spokesman declined to confirm the report.

Nissan has been pushing rapidly into emerging markets, including through a partnership with Ashok Leyland Ltd (ASOK.NS) in India and a recently announced factory in Brazil, where it aims to triple its market share by 2016.

Nissan and its French partner, Renault SA (RENA.PA), are also close to announcing a deal to increase the alliance's stake in Russia's AvtoVAZ (AVAZ.MM), the maker of Lada cars, to aid growth there.

For Nissan, using the Datsun brand would remove a conundrum that its domestic rivals Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T) face in emerging markets. Toyota and Honda officials have said selling ultra-cheap vehicles would be difficult given the potential damage to their mass-market brands, respected for their reliability and quality.

A resurrection of Datsun would follow a growing trend to bring back heritage nameplates, including Toyota's 86, or "Hachi-roku" sports car, Chrysler's Dodge Dart and partner Fiat's (FIA.MI) 500.

(Reporting by Monika Shinghal in BANGALORE, Nobuhiro Kubo, Chris Gallagher and Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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