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Nissan not planning Datsun for developed markets

Nissan Motors Corp.'s new logo 'Datsun' is displayed at the Nissan head office in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Nissan is reviving Datsun models in emerging markets, where the biggest growth is expected for affordable stylish vehicles, and has no plans to bring the brand back in developed markets, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday. Nissan Motors Corp.'s new logo "Datsun" is displayed at the Nissan head office in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Nissan is reviving Datsun models in emerging markets, where the biggest growth is expected for affordable stylish vehicles, and has no plans to bring the brand back in developed markets, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
By Yuri Kageyama
AP Business Writer / March 21, 2012
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YOKOHAMA, Japan—Nissan's revival of the Datsun won't include developed markets, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday, outlining a strategy to target the revamped brand at emerging nations where the biggest growth is expected for affordable stylish vehicles.

The offerings will be tailored for each market, including price and engine size, targeting the burgeoning market of first-time car buyers in countries such as India, Indonesia and Russia, where Datsun will be introduced from 2014, he said.

Executives gave away few details, including specifics of Datsun models they had in the works.

Corporate Vice President Vincent Cobee said the new Datsuns will be entry-level cars in each nation, aimed at "up and coming" successful people who are "optimistic about the future."

He said two models will go on sale within the first year in the three nations, and an enhanced lineup of models will be offered within three years.

Nissan Motor Co. faces intense competition from rivals, including other Japanese players such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which all have their eyes on emerging markets that also include China, Mexico and Brazil. Growth has stagnated in recent years in more established markets such as Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

Ghosn announced Tuesday in Indonesia that the Datsun will make a comeback, three decades after the shelving of a brand that helped define not only Nissan but Japanese carmaking in the U.S., as well as in Japan. It is a name that is synonymous with affordable and reliable small cars, according to Nissan.

Datsun debuted in Japan in 1932, and hit American showrooms more than 50 years ago.

It was discontinued globally starting in 1981 to unify the model lineup under the Nissan brand. Nissan also makes Infiniti luxury models.

Tsuyoshi Mochimaru, auto analyst with Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, said the Datsun name helps differentiate cheaper models targeting emerging markets from Nissan's other models.

"Emerging markets are where the growth is, but what will sell are cheaper cars, where profit margins will be lower," he said. "By separating the brand, you avoid hurting the value of the Nissan brand."

The new blue Datsun logo was inspired by the old one, according to Nissan.

Ghosn said Nissan has been preparing the Datsun brand for years and was already developing models. He was confident Nissan had not fallen behind rivals.

"We just see an opportunity," he told reporters. "When you're ready, you should do it."

Nissan officials acknowledged only the older generation may be familiar with the Datsun brand and it may not even be recognized in emerging markets.

But they said it stood for good styling, durability and safety.

"Datsun is part of the heritage of the company," Ghosn said. "Datsun is a good name."

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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