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Dear Nissan, Datsun Is Not Dacia!

Illustration for article titled Dear Nissan, Datsun Is Not Dacia!

As you probably all heard by now, Nissan announced last March that it will reintroduce the long gone Datsun marque in emerging markets like Russia, India and Indonesia as a budget brand. With 43.4% of their shares at Renault for more than a decade now, one could only wonder where they got the idea from. The new Datsuns will be based on the Lada Kalina's platform, but use different bodies and interiors, with the first ones going on sale as soon as next year.


It's pretty understandable that Nissan doesn't want to ruin its image with cheap workhorses. It's also clear that the money they invested so far together with the $750 million they are going to pour into the Russian brand and its factory in Togliatti isn't just a Christmas present. But it's also worth remembering what Datsun stood for. Certainly nothing like this:

Illustration for article titled Dear Nissan, Datsun Is Not Dacia!

Datsun is older than Nissan itself. It appeared first on a car in the summer of 1931, although at that time, it was spelled Datson. After Nissan took over its parent company in 1934, the name was changed so it wouldn't have a negative meaning anymore (as son[損] is "loss" in Japanese), and also to represent the Sun, the country's national symbol.

Nissan grew to include 74 firms including Nissan Motor before the war, and built trucks, airplanes, and engines for the Japanese military when the action started to heat up. In the fifties, British cars were build under licence (and copied without hesitation), all wearing the Datsun logo. Nissan branding was only used on commercial vehicles. This all changed in the sixties, especially after the merger with Prince Motor Company in 1966. In the following two years, the new large cars like the Skyline or the Gloria were sold as Nissans, and the Prince brand was completely phased out.

By that time, Datsun was on the North American market for six years, getting its reputation by building the great Fairlady roadster, only to be followed by the mighty 510, and America's favourite budget sports car, the 260Z. Remember that one? Of course you do. In fact, you probably still want one.


Nissan spent a fortune on global rebranding after the decision was made to switch to the corporate name in 1981, after seeing how successful Toyota become having the pride do that from the start. It wasn't easy, as after getting half a billion dollars shorter, the Datsun name was still more recognizable than Nissan in 1986.

Illustration for article titled Dear Nissan, Datsun Is Not Dacia!

I'll stop right here with the history lesson, dear Renault Nissan, but tell you one thing:

While making a $3000 car for the emerging markets is an idea I can full support, legacy (something Dacia never had) is not something you should just throw out of the window. Datsuns were known not only for being cheap and well built, but for making you smile. So... you go and design a cheap but reliable hot hatch, and we'll call it even.


Photo credit: Kyle Ryan, Dave_7, and AFP for Mr. Putin and his Kalina Gti.

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Raphael Orlove

I love 510s and 240, 260, even 280Zs maybe even more than the next guy, but I try to never forget that Datsun also cranked out tons of super-boring turds. Look at the second-generation 510.