Jose Roman serves as the corporate vice-president and the global head of Datsun for Nissan Motor Co, Japan. He was appointed to this position on April 1, 2017. He leads the global Datsun team in Japan and teams in markets around the world where Datsun has been introduced, including India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. Datsun, whose original production run began in 1931, is a brand owned by Nissan. Until 1986, only vehicles exported outside Japan by Nissan were identified as Datsun. In 1986, Nissan phased out the brand. In 2013, Nissan revived it. Because Datsun is targeted at the aspirational middle classes of developing nations, India was chosen as the launchpad, the first car being the Go, which couldn’t sell much. Then it launched the Go+, which too failed. The third offering was the redi-GO, which has been relatively successful. In an interaction with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary at the Tokyo Motor Show, Roman says that three years is too less a time to judge the success of a brand in a tough market such as India. Excerpts:
Datsun now sells more cars in India than parent company Nissan does, yet both of them put together don’t form even 5% of the market. Do you think Datsun could have performed better?
Emerging markets throw up tough challenges; there are unanticipated ups and downs. We faced initial challenges, but in the process we understood the market. We are in India for the long-term. And anyway, we are just a three-year-old brand in India. I think Datsun has done well in a short span in a market where simply creating brand value can take many years. Yes, I want the Indian team to perform even better and I am putting pressure on them to deliver more, but what they have achieved is no less
At the same time, I think we misunderstood the market a couple of times, such as not launching a particular car at the right time. For example, if the market wanted, say, a 1.0-litre engine car, we were not able to launch it quickly enough.
But we take it as learning. After the Go, Go+ and redi-GO, do you have more products from your global portfolio to offer to the Indian market?
A new generation of products is being currently developed in Japan. I have seen those products, and I have seen a good future for Datsun in those products.
Would these be launched during the Auto Expo 2018?
That’s too early. But we’ll surely launch before 2020.
And would these be small cars?
Datsun is known for emerging markets. It depends on what you define as ‘small’ … these could be sedans, hatchbacks or crossover cars.
India plans to put electric mobility in place by 2030. Having worked in car industry across the world, do you think it is possible?
It’s a fantastic plan. But it is not the responsibility of car companies alone. The government and customers have to play an equal role. The technology already exists … the new Nissan Leaf can go 400km on a single charge.
But the government has to put in place charging infrastructure. India is not a country, it’s a subcontinent. Pan-India electric vehicle infrastructure might not be possible by 2030, but it is doable in at least major cities.