Despite the lukewarm response it received for its two initial products, Japanese carmaker Datsun is buoyant about the Indian market. As the company prepares to launch its third product in the market, the Datsun Redi-GO, officials are very confident about the company's prospects in India. At the New Delhi Auto Expo in February this year, we spoke to Vincent Cobee, Corporate Vice President and Global Head, Datsun (R) and Koji Nagano, Executive Design Director, Datsun (L) to get a wholesome perspective on their approach in India, and design of their products.
Core to Datsun India's approach would be to expand its sales network, which with the launch of the third product, would become extremely critical. From the 42 dedicated brand outlets it had last year, Cobee said the company is looking at 50 % additional dedicated 1S outlets across the country, taking its tally to 63+ exclusive sales outlets. In addition, Datsun also sells its products through the 200+ sales network of its sister brand, Nissan.
Both brands combined, the company is eyeing a 5 % market share in India by 2020, said Cobee. To that measure, the future product line-up from the company would be very critical. One such product, showcased at the Auto Expo, is the GO-Cross concept. Cobee made no commitment about its production model, but considering the increasing popularity of compact SUVs and crossovers in the Indian market, Datsun India wouldn't want to delay its launch by long.
"We are looking at solidifying our foundation in the country by not just focussing on expanding our network, but also offering exciting colour combinations on our products. We also plan to increase our sales finance offers and have interesting marketing campaigns lined up," said Cobee in response to a question.
Be it the GO, the GO+ or the upcoming Redi-GO, the Datsun design approach has been in the realms of straightforwardness and simplicity. Nagano explained, "To me straightforwardness means focussing on the core of the needs of the customer; not designing anything weird, strange or edgy." He believes there is no reason to tamper with the design history of the Datsun brand that has been built on the foundations of simple, clean, positive and robust designs.
But isn't it necessary to change thoughts and strategies with changing times? Not essential, said Nagano, explaining that the trigger for change in styling or design is primarily dependent on three aspects: one, when there is a change in the energy source of the vehicle – engines, motors or battery – the proportions of the vehicle might demand changes to secure better space and packaging, for instance. Second, regulations related to safety or efficiency sometimes pushes manufacturers to introduce certain design changes. The final aspect is when customers get bored with a specific design. "We have to be constantly aware of what the customer preferences are, and we have to adapt accordingly," Nagano noted. Talking about the GO-Cross specifically, Nagano said the brief was to make the GO platform more aspirational, more emotional, and more functional for the consumer.
Meanwhile, product differentiation is equally important to build a lasting impression in any given market. And India is no different. "We need to establish the Datsun brand to start with, and hence we are focussing on an easy-to-understand visual identity as a product," he justified. The GO-Cross concept has the capability to create a momentum for the Datsun brand in India, he said.
Nagano feels the emotional needs of Indian consumers are changing, and they have started to appreciate simple yet elegant designs, more like European designs. It is important to monitor these changing tastes of Indian consumers and follow-up to ensure we are able to meet their tastes and preferences, he said.
Text: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay