'Future Datsun products would be priced above Rs 6 lakh': Vincent Cobee, Global Datsun head

It's been over a year and a half since the launch of brand Datsun in India, which has had its share of learnings so far. Vincent Cobee, global head, Datsun, talks about the company's plan.

Sumantra B Barooah By Sumantra B Barooah calendar 23 Nov 2015 Views icon5148 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp

It's been over a year and a half since the launch of brand Datsun in India, which has had its share of learnings so far. As Datsun plans to grow in more markets across the globe and expand its footprints in India, Vincent Cobee, global head, Datsun, talks to Sumantra B Barooah about the company's plan.

How would you define the Datsun journey so far?

I think it’s been, as you said, a road full of learnings and full of building a foundation. I think the superior performance of the car in many dimensions was recognised. The second and perhaps the most important part is that we have a very high customer satisfaction. So, the people who we managed to convince to trying out this new brand are actually very satisfied with the products. Moving forward, we need to continue expanding, accelerating, learning the complexities and the key drivers of India and, from this foundation, build a strong house.       

Are you happy with Datsun’s sales numbers in India?

I think the reality is, we would have loved to sell more. But I think we should also be cognisant of the fact that the brand is not built over a couple of months. We are 18 months into the market and we are the third player in the B-hatchback segment. Obviously much smaller than the other two but it also means we are the only one which has managed to carve a space for itself in an extremely conservative until now and meaningful  segment which is the B-hatchback of India.  

Is there anything that still baffles you about India?

There are a lot of very complex challenges in the Indian market. Obviously, the diversity from one part of India to the other.The variety of demands from the customer. Affordability is one criteria, fuel economy is another but modernity, innovation and features are also a fundamental criteria. So, this is a tough equation to perfectly master.

Most recently, one of the things which I don’t have an answer for is, this market is growing, it is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. It is growing faster than China but nearly only one brand grows and that is the dominant player. This is kind of counter-intuitive. So, I think deep inside the Indian market the key drivers of purchase are complex, they are deeply rooted and they are slow to change. And I think one of this is the fact that word-of-mouth and friends and family are the key influencers in the purchase decision. So, that gives us a direction but that also must give us patience because the Indian market is a slow construction that I am quite sure is a loyal and rewarding market as we move forward.

March 2016 will be the second anniversary of brand Datsun in India. That could be a good occasion to launch the next model, won’t it?

Yes, when we brought Datsun to India, we said it’s not a car, it’s a line-up. And the way we committed is by saying we’ll launch three cars within three years. Because of the dynamism of India, because of the potential of India we wanted to make sure that India would be the best server of markets. So, we will complete the three-car line-up in barely two years, not three. So, yes, somewhere in March next year we’ll be launching a new car.

The acquisition price tag also defines the brand positioning. Is it absolutely clear that Datsun will not break the ceiling of Rs 500,000?

I don’t think it is a price boundary thing. It is a customer boundary.

We see in India a vast tranche of population accessing what I call middle-class, the luxury of choice, and investment into the future. Those customers today buy aRs 3-5 lakh car. Five to 10 years down the road, those customers will still be the very dynamic engine of Indian growth but they will have changed family stage, they will have changed their purchasing patterns but they might not decide to opt for a global model being sold at Rs 7 lakh. They might just want a different car. So, today, yes, the brands are positioned partly by their selling price but I think tomorrow they will be positioned through their customer types.

So, a global Nissan model and a Datsun market specific model could play in the same price bracket in the future?

Yes. But they would be different. They would offer a different experience. 

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