GENEVA -- Vincent Cobee's mission to reintroduce Datsun around the world is a mixture of irony, politics, auto industry counterintuition and a fair amount of raiding the corporate closet for new products.
Cobee, a Frenchman with a Harvard MBA, has been tasked by Nissan Motor Corp. CEO Carlos Ghosn with re-establishing a name that Ghosn's predecessors killed in the early 1980s.
The Datsun name still stirs positive feelings among American consumers of a certain age who fondly recall the 1970s-era Datsun 240Z and the durable little Datsun pickup. And yet the United States is one market in which Nissan has no interest in reintroducing Datsun.
"It's more than an irony that we're not going back there," acknowledges Cobee, 46, a tall and lanky father of three who trains for triathlons in his off time. "If I had my way, one day, I'd find a way to do that. But it's not in the plans."
Instead, Ghosn wants Cobee to establish Datsun as a low-cost aspirational brand in emerging world markets, including Indonesia, Russia, India, South Africa and Latin America. In an industry in which automakers count on large vehicles and higher-priced models to deliver their meaty profit margins, Datsun focuses on products that retail for less than $7,000.