Datsun accounts for about one percent of Nissan’s global portfolio, but has achieved good sales in SA’s cash-conscious car market. Picture: SUPPLIED
Datsun accounts for about one percent of Nissan’s global portfolio, but has achieved good sales in SA’s cash-conscious car market. Picture: SUPPLIED

Datsun looks like it’s here to stay for now, after earlier reports that Nissan might put the brakes on its budget brand.

In announcing a new four-year global restructuring plan recently, the Japanese carmaker said that Datsun would be discontinued in Russia, where its sales have struggled, but didn’t confirm long-running rumours that it would phase out the brand altogether.

Notably, Nissan didn’t say that the budget brand will be discontinued in India, from where the Datsun Go and Go+ sold in SA are sourced. Nissan SA spokesperson Veralda Schmidt told Motor News that Datsuns will continue to be sold locally and that the Nissan network will provide after-sales services and warranty support to owners.

Datsun was revived in 2013 as the carmaker’s more affordable offering for emerging markets after the nameplate was phased out in the mid 1980s and rebranded Nissan.

Datsun is a small player in Nissan’s overall portfolio, accounting for about 1% of global sales, but it has achieved good sales in SA’s cash-conscious car market. It is one of the country’s top-selling budget brands and last year the Go and larger Go+ were snapped up by 7,701 owners.

Despite performing dismally in crash tests, the car’s keen pricing made it a popular seller among cash-strapped local motorists, many of whom were moving up from the public transport ranks for the first time and, since the launch, the range has grown to include the Go+ panel van and the seven-seater Go+ hatchback.

Following the negative publicity about its safety, the Go was recently updated with ABS brakes and dual front airbags range-wide. At the same time it’s been enhanced with updated suspension and added insulation for better refinement, but prices have risen accordingly. Once SA’s most affordable car, the cheapest Go now sells for R165,800.

Nissan’s new Mid Term Plan (MTP) announced recently will see the troubled carmaker becoming a smaller, more efficient company after posting a $6.2bn annual net loss this year. The four-year plan will involve cutting global production by 20%, shutting a plant in Barcelona that employs 3,000 people and reducing its vehicle line-up.  It will deepen co-operation with its partners Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, reducing costs by working more closely on developing cars together.

It’s Nissan’s latest attempt to pull itself out of crisis after experiencing weak demand for its cars in the fallout from the arrest of its former boss Carlos Ghosn, who is an international fugitive after jumping bail and fleeing Japan.

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated a slide in profitability that caused its first annual loss in 11 years.

"I will make every effort to return Nissan to a growth path," Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said, adding that the company had learnt from its past mistakes of chasing global market share at all costs.

Nissan sold 4.9-million vehicles last year, down 11% from the previous year.

Africa remains an important growth market for the Nissan group of companies, says Nissan SA, and the company’s global restructuring plan won’t affect the R3bn deal to build the next-generation Navara in this country.

Schmidt says that Nissan SA’s plant in Rosslyn, Tshwane, resumed production on June 1 to deliver the first locally-produced Nissan Navara pickups early in 2021.