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Don’t Look for Nissan’s new “World Car” to be Seen on U.S. Roads

October 2012 Product

Theodore Levitt in his monumental “Globalization of Markets” treatise predicted the future of international marketing will be the truly “global product.”  He envisioned products that everybody in the world could use and not worry about such products being customized to any nationality or culture.  Everybody would understand how to work the product and not even have to worry about language and directions.

Well, the future is now!  Nissan has unveiled its new “Datsun,” as the $3,000-$5,000  world car.  It is interesting how Nissan has resurrected the old brand that formerly was the name that all its cars carried.  (Datsun hasn’t been used as a trademark for 30 years.)

This new $3,000-$5,000 car is truly a bare bones bottom feeder and geared for emerging third world markets.  To say the car is a no-frills model is an understatement.  This care has been dices and sliced to the absolute degree.  Other than at auto shows, it is unlikely Americans will even see it on U.S. highways and because its features have been ripped to the core, there may be some problems getting the car approved for sale in the U.S.

The thought of an $8,000 car today is far-fetched but a $3,000-$5,000 car…  How are they going to do it?  In the Oct. 2, 2012, issue of the Wall Street Journal, Nissan dissected its new Datsun and here is what buyers can expect:

Engine – The standard for low-cost engines in four cylinders.  The bare-bones Datsun will run on two cylinders like a Jet ski or motorcycle.

Brakes – Standard low cost cars have anti-lock brakes that cost about $250; the bar-bones Datsun has the old-fashioned pump brakes.

Transmission – The car is available with only a low-cost standard transmission .

Seats – Nothing adjustable.  Just non-reclining bench seats.

Air Bags – Driver-only air bags.  (This might exclude this car from the U.S. market)

Mirrors – Only rear and driver’s side outside mirrors.

Interior Panels – Just think snap-in-place plastic panels.

Muffler – bare-bones product will offer a noisier, shakier ride.

Nissan’s move to the lowest-end market carries some risk.  Pricing a car so low will make it almost impossible to make any profits.  What will happen if there are flaws and recalls and other expensive boo-boos?  There also is doubt as to whether market with that low a standard of living can afford this car even though it has such a cheap price tag.  Also, what kind of a statement is Nissan making about the rest of its line when it has such a bare-bones bottom-feeder with its name on it.

Meanwhile, Nissan’s battery-powered LEAF has hardly set the world on fire.  After a great introduction, sales have fallen to half its levels in its introductory year.  GM, on the other hand, has done much better with its battery-powered car.



About the author

James T. Berger, Managing Editor of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.

James T. Berger
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