Datsun, the Japanese car manufacturer, and the budget arm of Nissan Motors, became the latest player to join the Indian automobile market, with the launch of Datsun Go hatchback in February 2014, at the Auto Expo. Datsun has expanded their portfolio by launching the Datsun Go+ MPV in January this year. Our editor-in-chief Ashish Masih was recently in Japan and visited the Nissan-Datsun facility. Here's the transcript of his interview with Vincent Cobee, Global Head, Datsun, discussing about his analysis on the 1.5 years of the manufacturer in India and their future plans.
Ashish Masih: You have been India for about 2 years, and the products haven't really taken-off as you would have wished them to take off. So, what are your key learnings, as a brand in India?
Vincent Cobee: We launched the Datsun Go in India in march 2014, Datsun Go+ MPV, in January 2015. So, what is to be learned is - first, we have a great customer satisfaction. The products have had a great media review, and very positive customer review. We can do better, we have a better geographical coverage, we can obviously continue to improve our offer - from marketing communication, to maintenance, to accessories, including financing option. A market like India, with its size, its diversity, its dynamism, is something that does take time, and we need to continuously make sure that we are, extremely appreciated by existing customer and convert customers into advocates and progressing city by city because the market is extremely competitive and extremely vast.
AM: What do you think are the key strengths of the brand and what do you see as the key challenges?
VC: We are backed by a Japanese car maker, Nissan Motor Co., who provide technology, quality and global reach. We are modern and product innovators and we provided the first compact family wagon in India, a sub 4-metre car with 7 seats and substantial cargo space (Datsun Go+). So, we provide high quality, customer satisfaction, and product innovation added with good engine, fuel economy, acceleration and braking.
The challenges for us are awareness as we have been in India for only 18 months. We need to get our message and values across. Geographical presence is one challenge. We have opened nearly 200 sales points in India, which is a massive step but not sufficient. We also have to make sure that we continue enhancing customer experience and reputations.
AM: Is there a chance of working with Nissan in India in terms of sales and product promotion?
VC: We belong to a same company, so we have a number of back office synergies - from manufacturing, engineering, and distribution. We also have the same dealer investors. But we want the customer experience to be separate and branded because the two brands provide different attributes to two substantially different customers. We are all backed by the same reliability, the same quality, and the balance of reassurance which is coming and brand's attributes that are different is a continuous optimization of our business.
AM: What do you want the Datsun brand to be known for in India?
VC: Fundamently, it's a more exhilarating ownership experience. It's very free, reliable, cost is controlled both purchase and running cost. You get a modern car which is spacious, dynamic, and you get a quality of service which is Japanese. So it's a fantastic ownership experience which Datsun is trying to bring to India.
AM: In terms of the Datsun Go+, where do you think has it been slow to sell?
VC: When we developed Datsun Go+, a number of people told us that there is no demand for this car in India and the reason was there was no such car. Until January 2015, if you wanted 7 seats in a car, you need to pay 6-7 Lakhs INR. So break a new ground, we found the package, technical solution, and product innovation to offer seven seats, a substantial cargo space, below 4-meter for 4 Lakhs INR. So, that message that you can have a good quality of driving, a pride of ownership for 7 seats for Rs 4 Lakhs, is a message that progressively takes traction.