It seems the unloved brand hasn't taken its last breath yet.
For those in the States, the name Datsun evokes fond memories of fun-filled and affordable motoring. Legends such as the gorgeous 240Z and sporty 510 sedan brought excitement to the masses and, as such, these and many more are regarded as classics. When Nissan announced the hallowed brand would make a return, many were excited about what the revived marque would bring to the table.
Sadly, what arrived was a lineup of massively disappointing budget cars. Targeting developing markets, they arrived with poor build quality, questionable safety, and not much in the way of a thrilling driving experience. Unfortunately for Datsun, the underwhelming budget buys were launched into a market already bustling with far better cars, such as the Suzuki Swift. After a decade of controversy, Nissan decided to kill the brand for good. Or has it?
According to Automotive News, company insiders have reportedly said that Nissan is still mulling over what to do with the budget car subsidiary; the budget nameplate may return yet again as a budget electric vehicle maker. This does make sense - Nissan and its alliance partners, Renault and Mitsubishi, plan to launch as many as 35 electric vehicles by 2030.
Introducing a budget sub-division focusing on affordable EVs will allow Nissan to target developing markets such as India and South Africa, where electric cars are still the reserve of monied consumers. Renault-owned Dacia has already cornered this market in parts of Europe, selling the equally questionable Spring - a battery-powered hatchback - at a relatively affordable price.
At $27,400 before incentives, the Nissan Leaf is one of the more affordable electric offerings in the USA. Despite the attractive MSRP, it's still out of reach for many - and this is a first-world country. This is only exacerbated in countries with a lower GDP. In South Africa, where the Go is sold, EVs made up not even 0.5% of total vehicle sales in 2021. Rebranding the troubled brand into an affordable electric car company could give Nissan the potential to corner the budget-friendly EV market.
Whether this will pan out remains to be seen but it would make a lot of sense. Of course, retooling Indian factories to produce battery-powered economy hatchbacks could prove expensive and Nissan isn't in a position to be throwing money at new segments. While the Japanese carmaker's financial position has improved in the last few years, we're guessing conservative business decisions are favored over risky moves.