Ready for the Datsun Comeback?

New Datsun

“Is that an old Ferrari!?”

My son pointed and loudly exclaimed to anyone within earshot that he had spotted some sort of rare Prancing Horse. In reality, the car that captured his attention was a beautiful Datsun 240Z.

He hadn’t even heard of Datsun, and he couldn’t hide his disappointment. I explained that the old 240Z certainly shares some looks with a Ferrari GTO, or even a Jaguar E-Type, but the car really defined the affordable sports car market in the United States and was, and still is, unmistakably Datsun.

Then I told him that Datsun isn’t around anymore.

“Well, I think Datsun should come back,” he said.

Datsun is indeed coming back, though in a much different way than my son in mind.

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Datsun Returns, and Some Ask Why

1983 Datsun Sentra

Nissan announced this week that it was reviving the Datsun brand to represent the company in developing markets—namely India, Indonesia and Russia—beginning in 2014. Datsun cars became Nissans in 1981-’82.

The company plans to put $400 million into modernizing its Indonesia facility and tripling its dealerships in Southeast Asia. This lucrative market has been dominated by Toyota and is growing rapidly. One report predicts auto sales in Indonesia will rise by 50 percent in five years.

For those in the U.S., memories of Datsun cars can encompass everything from the 1982 Sentra pictured above (one of which was owned by my son, who says it was the absolute worst-handling car he ever drove) to the 240Z280Z cars that were loved by many.

So Nissan will recreate Datsun as a low-end brand to capture some of the burgeoning minicar-subcompact market in developing countries. The question is why did they resurrect the old name?

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