NASHVILLE -- A Japanese press report claims that Nissan Motor Co. intends to resurrect its old "Datsun" brand name for certain emerging markets.
Nissan officials decline to discuss the buzz as they prepare to announce a new round of global product initiatives later this month. But according to the reports, Datsun would become a sort of "underbrand," a portfolio of low-priced autos in undeveloped markets -- specifically not North America, Europe or Japan.
No one in the car business is going to get rich second-guessing Carlos Ghosn. But this idea is not immediately crystal clear.
Nissan spent half a decade trying to stuff the Datsun name in a box and get rid of it back in the 1980s. In the interest of unifying its global identity, Nissan spent considerable ad dollars explaining the name change. Marketing types warned that Nissan would never recover from the confusion it would cause American consumers.
Graduate school management professors warned that it was a terrible mistake.
Datsun dealers grumbled for years about giving up their well-established brand equity. Nissan executives patiently explained that it was primarily America that was out of step on the matter. Around the globe, Nissan was known as Nissan, they pointed out. And the real mistake had been to use the name "Datsun" in the United States in the first place.
"Datsun" was an old pet name among Nissan executives when the company shyly attempted its first U.S. sales in the 1950s. And then, suddenly, it was too late to change it.