George Orwell wrote in 1984 that "the only hope for the future lies with the proles." Nissan Motors might agree with that sentiment, and has planned accordingly to build really cheap cars for the developing country masses by resurrecting the Datsun nameplate.
The challenge, of course, is to build cars that can actually be sold for $3,000-$5,000, as the company said it wants to do. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn figures that if Nissan can work through that unique production challenge and tap into emerging economies, the sky's the limit.
What it all boils down to is making a stripped down car worthy of 1950s Volkswagens' no-frills standards. Say goodbye to power accessories, airbags, and all of that other crap that has made cars safer and more comfortable, but also a lot more expensive. The Datsun brand, which once plied quality-conscious American cheapsters with inexpensive, but really awesome cars, is a good way to go about it.
Developing countries make up half of the world's auto sales, but car manufacturers have yet to figure out how to make a car cheap enough for poor people to buy. But that's exactly how Henry Ford mobilized America, and how post-war Volkswagen got Europe on wheels. Ignoring the cumulative environmental impacts and cleanup costs, look what those mobilization revolutions did for economies.
Now let's think about taking this strategy and applying it to American youth, who often appear to be more interested in iThings than with actually going places in their own transportation. Perhaps if there was a car cheap and weird enough to catch their attention, Nissan could again ride off into the sunset of success in a Datsun.
Something like the Datsun X-Link concept pictured would be great, though something more like the Nano is what we expect.
Of course, there are all kinds of government regulations here that Nissan won't have to deal with in developing countries. But someday, America will truly be free and get stuff now reserved for other markets.
Photo credit: Associated Press, Benjamin Nawka via Car Body Design