MUMBAI -- Nissan Motor Co.will revive its Datsun brand after three decades in a bid to increase sales in developing markets such as Russia, India and Indonesia.
The Japanese automaker will start selling Datsun cars in the three markets starting in 2014, Nissan said in a statement today.
Nissan will hold press conferences in Tokyo and Mumbai on Wednesday to announce its plans for the brand, it said in e- mailed invitations.
The Datsun brand was officially discontinued in 1981, said Christopher Keeffe, a Nissan spokesman. He declined to further elaborate on plans for the brand ahead of the press conference.
Earlier this month, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported that the Datsun brand would be revived. Nissan declined to comment at the time.
Nissan targets global volume of 300,000 units a year for Datsun, the Nikkei said.
A focus on expanding sales in emerging markets is a key pillar of Nissan's mid-term business plan. It aims to make countries such as India, Brazil, China and Russia account for 60 percent of its global sales by 2016, from 40 percent in 2007.
For Nissan, using the Datsun brand would remove a conundrum that its domestic rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. face in emerging markets. Toyota and Honda officials have said selling ultra-cheap vehicles would be difficult given the potential damage to their mass-market brands, respected for their reliability and quality.
The brand will help the company compete against companies such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. in India and Toyota Motor Corp. in Indonesia, Ammar Master, an analyst at LMC Automotive in Bangkok, said. "Datsun could bring in volumes at the lower end of the market," said Master. "While the Nissan brand will continue to move upmarket."
In India, Nissan sells its Micra hatchback from 421,765 rupees ($8,348). Maruti Suzuki, India's biggest automaker, offers its best-selling Alto model from 240,352 rupees. In October, Hyundai Motor Co. added its cheapest model, the Eon, priced from 269,999 rupees.
Compacts and mini-cars accounted for more than 75 percent of total passenger-car sales in the nation in the 11 months ended February, according to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
Maruti had 42 percent of the total Indian passenger-car market while Hyundai had 19 percent and Nissan 1.5 percent, according to data from the group.
Vehicle sales in Indonesia are projected to rise more than 50 percent in five years as the growing working class demands minivans and compact cars.
Nissan expects industrywide sales to double in Indonesia by 2017.
CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets estimates Indonesia had 32 vehicles for every 1,000 people in 2010, compared with 123 in Thailand and 300 in Malaysia. Indonesia's economy and population are bigger than those two Southeast Asian neighbors combined.
Sources: Bloomberg and Reuters