Ghosn says Nissan might build Datsuns in Mexico

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AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico -- Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says the company may build low-cost Datsun-brand vehicles in Mexico to supply new markets across Latin America.

The company also is considering Datsun production in Russia through Nissan's Russian global alliance partner AvtoVAZ, says the brand's global launch executive.

Ghosn said no decisions have been made about future Datsun production. But he acknowledged Datsun is an ongoing consideration.

"This is another question: Are we going to build Datsun in Mexico?" Ghosn said in a meeting with reporters here last month. "We're launching Datsun in India and Indonesia, and we feel it's going to be very successful. So we say, why not in South America?"

Nissan intends to market low-cost cars under the resurrected Datsun name in diverse markets, from Russia to Indonesia to Africa. But manufacturing the products presents a unique issue: The new brand is not established enough anywhere to warrant the company's investment in centralized production.

That suggests Nissan will need to carve out Datsun factory capacity inside existing plants, such as the one it launched in November in Aguascalientes.

Nissan will pitch Datsuns solely to low-cost countries, where traditional vehicle ownership has been out of reach for average consumers. The first model, the Go, has a 1.2-liter engine and costs around $6,500. It will go on sale in India next February. It's built at a multimodel Nissan plant in Chennai in southern India.

AvtoVAZ, which produces the Lada vehicle brand for Russia and other markets, has factory capacity that could support the Datsun brand in some markets, says Vincent Cobee, global Datsun head.

AvtoVAZ has exported Ladas to diverse world markets with limited success in the past, including Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Canada.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com.

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