Nissan targets Russia's first-time car buyers with Datsun

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn poses with the Datsun Go after the hatchback's launch in India in July.

Photo credit: Reuters
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MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Nissan will unveil its resurrected Datsun brand in Russia in April, seeking to lure young first-time buyers away from the used car market to its sub-400,000 ruble ($12,100) Go model.

Nissan retired the Datsun brand in 1981 but announced last year that it would relaunch the small car in emerging markets, targeting Indonesia, India, Russia and South Africa.

"The main objective (in Russia) is to be a serious alternative to the used car market - this is where we want to compete," Jerome Saigot, director of Datsun in Russia, told a news briefing in Moscow.

Saigot said sales forecasts for Datsun have not been disclosed. He estimates that about six million used cars will be sold in Russia this year.

Russia has a growing middle class with disposable income, low car density and an aging fleet on the road - all factors that should support future sales - but economic growth is slowing and new car sales are expected to drop by 6 percent this year. Market analyst Autostat on Tuesday predicted a 5 percent decline next year.

Saigot, however, believes there is room for growth in lower-cost cars. The sub-400,000 ruble segment, currently accounting for about a quarter of the market for new vehicles at about 700,000 cars, is expected to grow to 900,000 cars with about the same market share by 2017.

"It is a big piece of the market where we don't have any offer in the Nissan line-up," Saigot said. "The risk here is to do nothing."

Datsun will compete against Russian partner Avtovaz's Lada, but Saigot said the two brands would sell to different customers, with Datsun targeting first-time buyers.

The Datsun will be produced at Avtovaz's Togliatti plant. Nissan and French partner Renault have struck a deal to take control of Avtovaz by mid-2014.

Saigot said the Datsun will be unveiled in April with the first deliveries planned between August and September.

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