Will Africa be Datsun turf again?

Nissan is considering reintroducing its Datsun brand in Africa to compete with Indian and Chinese brands for lower-income customers.

Chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga said on Wednesday that the company, which also plans to spend about R1 billion on doubling its South African production capacity over the next few years, sees the fast-growing continent as an increasingly important market.

One of the best known and loved Datsuns in South Africa was the 1600, made at Rosslyn from 1969 to 1974.

But winning market share among Africa's cost-conscious new middle class requires a cheap entry-level vehicle.

Shiga-san told reporters at the company's plant in Rosslyn, outside Pretoria: “The Korean manufacturers, the Indians and Chinese are more aggressive in emerging markets

“In order to penetrate frontier, growing markets like the African market, we need a product.”

Shiga said the company was “considering” rolling out the Datsun in Africa, but that nothing had been decided.

Both India's Tata and China's Geely, which are also targeting Africa, are more experienced in low-income markets than Nissan or its Japanese rivals, including Toyota.

Nissan's Micra sells from about R110 000 in South Africa, still a hefty sum in a country where nearly 40 percent of the population live on less than R25 a day, where Geely's entry-level LC retails from around R95 000.


Nissan this year announced plans to revive the Datsun brand in Indonesia, India and Russia, to target first-time buyers in emerging markets.

The company ditched the Datsun name in 1981 to consolidate all cars under the Nissan brand. Datsun, which helped symbolise the rise of Japan's auto industry after World War II, is still a well-known marque in several markets, including North America.