There are 14.75 lakh new two-wheeler buyers in India every month. To succeed, all that a car company – especially one selling an entry-level product – has to do is make a fraction of them convert to its cars. That’s what Datsun has been targeting ever since it entered India in 2014. Datsun, which is a brand owned by Nissan, has launched three cars in three years – the Go in 2014, the Go+ in 2015 and the redi-GO in 2016. It has sold a total of 90,000 units, which itself is a fraction of the Indian passenger vehicle market. Would you call it a successful brand?
“How do you define success in a competitive market such as India? Last year, we were the fastest growing car brand. Anybody can argue that we could have performed better, but we are growing consistently – both in sales and in customer touch-points,” says Jerome Saigot, vice-president, Datsun India. I am in Goa, driving with Saigot in the Datsun redi-GO 1.0L, which will be launched on July 26. It has a 999cc petrol engine and is a more powerful version of the 799cc redi-GO that was launched last year.
Driving through hilly roads, the redi-GO 1.0L, whose engine produces a power of 67bhp and a torque of 91Nm, doesn’t feel lethargic. It has a claimed fuel-efficiency of 22.5kpl and the five-speed manual gearbox is smooth to operate. Its turning radius is just 4.7 metres, which makes turning around in narrow lanes easy.
It is the most spacious car in its segment. Headroom and legroom is more than that in the Alto, Eon and Kwid, and rear legroom matches that of a compact sedan. The boot space is 222 litres.Cost-cutting is apparent. For example, it has a single windshield wiper blade, as compared to two which is the norm, and the car doesn’t have a vanity mirror. Saigot stops short of calling it cost-cutting. “An equipment has to serve a purpose, and if a single wiper blade suffices, why do you need two?” He’s correct. It’s raining in this part of the country and the single wiper is able to sweep through the critical vision area.
At the same time, he agrees that the car could get more features, perhaps referring to the lack of vanity mirror or the fact that there is no intermittent wiper function. “We have to make our cars accessible. The more features you add, the higher the sticker price.” The more accessible its cars, the closer Nissan India would be towards its next major goal. “Nissan and Datsun, together, have a goal of achieving 5% market share in India by 2020. We are on that target,” Saigot says. Datsun, however, hasn’t announced which would be its next product in India after the redi-GO 1.0L. “Datsun is a global brand but its execution is local. So we don’t have a ready product in our global portfolio that we can just bring in; we have to develop a new one. However, the product path is set towards reaching the 5% target.”
For the record, Datsun has grown bigger than parent company Nissan in India, both in sales and in sales touch-points. There are 53 Datsun 1 S exclusive outlets. In addition, Datsun cars are sold at Nissan outlets (the shop-in-shop format), so there are a total of 275 sales touch-points of Datsun across 172 cities. “We also have a showroom on wheels that is travelling across India, especially in smaller cities,” Jerome says.So what kind of information do the dealers share with Datsun? “They say that customers love the product, but they want to be reassured about the brand, service, and cost of ownership. We take such messages positively, and with our dealer partners, work towards customer satisfaction.”
An approach towards the same is Datsun Care. By buying a package plan, redi-GO owners can get roadside assistance, better resale value, almost 100% maintenance, and more. “Rather than selling a product, we want to sell an automotive experience. That’s where Datsun Care comes,” Saigot adds.While the redi-GO has proved to be Datsun’s best bet towards brand building, Saigot says that as the company keeps coming out with relevant products, an increasing number of customers would start connecting with the brand. “Today, customers know that Datsun is a part of Nissan. This increases trust levels. This wasn’t the case three years ago. We are in a much better position as far as brand recall is concerned.” (The redi-GO 1.0L will be launched on July 26 in two trim levels – T(O) and S. It will be likely priced from Rs 3.65 lakh onwards, ex-showroom.)