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Datsun name to return from the dead

Great news, granddad. The popular Datsun brand, which died back in 1981, is set to shuffle from its grave starting in 2014.

Datsuns will return in 2014.
Datsuns will return in 2014.

We won’t see the old logo adorning a reborn Cherry or Bluebird in the UK any time soon, however — the Japanese firm has said new Datsuns will be affordable models sold in emerging markets like Indonesia, India and Russia.

Future Datsuns are likely to be built close to those growing hotspots of new buyers. Nissan has said it will invest 33bn yen (about £250m) to boost production capacity at its Indonesian plant, near to the capital Jakarta.

The Datsun name dates back 80 years but has collected dust for more than 30 of those. It won’t mean a thing to younger buyers, but Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn told reporters that Datsun once stood for “robust, reliable and affordable” cars. “These are good attributes to start with,” he said. “We’re going to add good quality and modernity.”

At the opposite extreme of the new-car spectrum, Nissan uses its newer Infiniti brand to mark out its premium products. While Infiniti has a low profile in the UK, the cars enjoy a much better level of recognition in the United States. With three brands to play with, Nissan will be able to create a broad range of products built to very different standards, with less risk of unwanted and damaging associations.

The new Datsun plan mirrors that of Renault, which owns the Dacia brand and employs it for unfussy cars sold in cost-conscious markets. Nissan and Renault are partners in a broad production and technology sharing alliance, so the Japanese firm should have good insight into how Dacia has helped Renault attract new customers.

Nissan has said it has no plans to bring Datsun to the UK but it’s worth noting that Renault asserted the same thing about Dacia, after buying the Romanian car maker in 1999. But Dacia will return to the UK with its Duster offroader and Sandero hatchback later this year.

The UK might not be an emerging market like India, but that doesn’t mean Brits aren’t interested in basic transport at bargain prices.

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