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Nissan SA weighs Datsun return

2012-08-23 10:18

COMPETITION TO BUDGET BUNCH: Nissan is likely to launch its revived Datsun brand as a low-cost option in Africa.

David Dolan

ROSSLYN - Nissan is considering rolling out its Datsun brand in Africa to better compete with Indian and Chinese rivals for lower-income consumers, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Nissan, which also announced plans to spend more than R1 billion on doubling its South African production capacity over the next few years, sees the fast-growing continent as an increasingly important market.

COST-CONSCIOUS BUYERS


But winning market share among Africa's cost-conscious new middle class requires a cheap entry-level vehicle.

Toshiyuki Shiga told reporters at a briefing at the company's plant in Rosslyn, outside Pretoria: "The Korean manufacturers, the Indians and Chinese are more aggressive in emerging markets.

"In order to penetrate frontier, growing markets like the African market, we need a product."

Shiga said the company was "considering" rolling out the Datsun in Africa, but that nothing had been decided.

Both India's Tata Motors and China's Geely, which are also targeting Africa, are more experienced in low-income markets than Nissan or its Japanese rivals, including Toyota.

In South Africa, Nissan's Micra sells from about R110 000, compared with Geely's entry-level LC that costs around R95 000.

BLAST FROM THE PAST


Nissan this year announced plans to revive the Datsun brand in Indonesia, India and Russia, to target first-time buyers in emerging markets.

The company ditched the Datsun name in 1981 to consolidate all cars under the Nissan brand. Datsun, which helped symbolise the rise of Japan's auto industry after World War II, is still a well-known marque in several markets, including North America.

Nissan currently produces around 90 000 cars a year in Africa, with about 50 000 in South Africa.

It plans to spend more than R1 billion rand to double the South African capacity by 2016, said Mike Whitfield, Nissan's managing director in South Africa.

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