Datsun boss Vincent Cobee has no plans to sell cars built by the revived Nissan brand in Europe.
“These models are for an emerging middle class. I don’t see this in Germany. I don’t see this in my country,” the Frenchman said.
He said there is a key reason why he can sell Datsuns for $6,000 to $8,500 and Nissan cannot: regulation.
Datsun produces its models specifically for one or two of its four core markets while anything Nissan builds needs to meet complicated and costly emissions, safety and other regulations in 160 to 180 countries around the world, Cobee said.
Nissan has to factor those extra costs into its selling price or absorb them.
Right now, Datsun avoids this problem.
“If you do this life becomes easy,” Cobee said at Datsun parent Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on Oct. 29. “You can’t build a Nissan like this, but you can build a Datsun like this.”
That is why Cobee can sell Datsuns at prices that are competitive in Russia, India, Indonesia and South Africa.
Just don’t call the prices cheap.
“I don’t do cheap cars,” Cobee says. “People invest two years of their disposable income in these cars.”
It’s been a year since Datsun re-entered the market. Here are the brand’s key numbers: four markets, three plants (Togliatti, Russia; Oragadam, near Chennai, India; Purwakarta, Indonesia), seven vehicle launches, 420 dealers and 114,000 customers.
When asked whether Datsun already is profitable Cobee stopped short of fully answering the question: “We are a growth opportunity but we are not a not-for-profit organization. I am expected to contribute to Nissan’s growth and profit.”
That sounds like a "no," but if Datsun isn't making money yet it probably won't be long before it does, especially since it currently has the same market share -- 2.2 percent -- in Russia as Ford.