Johannesburg - Datsun, re-launched by Nissan in four emerging markets in 2014, will manufacture a model in South Africa, but it is unclear when this will happen.
This was the confident pronouncement of Vincent Cobee, the global head of Datsun, who visited South Africa last week.
Cobee said 90 000-plus Datsuns had been sold since the progressive phased re-launch of the brand in March 2014, of which the Datsun Go and sister model Go Plus accounted for about 60 000.
The Datsun brand was initially re-launched in India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa last year, and subsequently in Nepal. Datsun models are currently produced in India, Indonesia and Russia.
Cobee said Datsun was targeting high growth markets or the economies of tomorrow and the expansion plans for the brand would be completed by 2020 and would be in the African continent, the Gulf countries and Mediterranean, and South America.
He said South Africa was the largest vehicle market in Africa but was at this stage not large enough to justify manufacturing any Datsun vehicles.
Nevertheless, Cobee indicated, sub-Saharan Africa (including South Africa) was a market of interest to Datsun, especially in five years’ time. He added that Datsun needed to create a big enough base to justify industrialisation, which also required predictability, competitiveness and agility.
“I need to be sure that by 2020 I can serve all sub-Saharan African countries from South Africa and it’s better to do it from here than to industrialise in India. That means I will get the cars on time, on quality and at competitive cost for the next five to 10 years.”
“On a global scale South Africa is not a competitive manufacturing site but for Africa it can be because of the specificity of the needs and proximity. If I make a car in South Africa, it can only be for the African continent and potentially for Gulf countries.
“You can make vehicles locally because you can tailor a product, source it at optimal cost and you don’t waste money on shipping and duties. I’ve said I want to, and I will, but there is no date,” he said.
Cobee said Datsun intended to use South Africa as the springboard into Africa but the debate involved Nigeria as a possible alternative.
A DATSUN BAKKIE?
He added the launch by Datsun of a light commercial vehicle was a possibility because the brand’s target customer was by definition entrepreneurial, which meant mixed usage was frequent, but this was not the first priority because a brand was built on its passenger cars.
4455 Datsuns had been sold in South Africa since the Go was launched in October 2014, he said.
Des Fenner, general manager of Datsun South Africa, said the model was the top seller in the entry level A-segment during October to March.
“The results so far are extremely pleasing and we certainly expect to finish the 2015 calendar year as number one. It shows that South Africa, which has a long love affair with our cars, was ready for our return.”
Fenner said Datsun South Africa had 61 dealers but this would be expanded further, with between R250 000 and R350 000 each invested by rural dealerships in a showroom and up to R1 million each by dealers in metropolitan areas.
He said the re-launch of Datsun in South Africa had created about 225 new jobs throughout its operations.