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With the progression of Chinese carmakers worldwide, the rise and rise of low-cost brands following the tremendous success of Dacia over the last decade is one of the most fascinating mega-trends in the car industry at the moment. For example, my worldwide January roundup stressed the fact that Renault is only keeping afloat worldwide due to the success of its Dacia models, and monthly Chinese rankings show both low-cost brands Baojun and Venucia are making their mark.
Last week, German website Autobild announced that Fiat could revive Autobianchi as its low-cost brand. For a while Innocenti was whispered around but it now seems like Autobianchi is the go. Created in 1955, Autobianchi was always priced higher than equivalent Fiat models and was used to test innovative concepts which later found their way into mainstream Fiat vehicles. Guess that will have to change now! The brand was integrated into Lancia in 1989 but survived in Italy until 1995 when production of the Y10 stopped. More on the Autobianchi brand here.
According to Autobild, the first Autobianchi model would be built in Poland and Russia and based on the Brazilian Fiat Siena, itself built on the previous generation Fiat Palio’s platform. It will be a notchback sedan targeted at Eastern European markets to go full frontal against the Dacia Logan, with prices starting at 5,000 Euros. Autobild says if these plans come to fruition we could see the first low-cost Autobianchi cars hitting the road in late 2014, which is not so far off!
These news come as Nissan has confirmed they are reviving the Datsun brand as their low-cost option, to be officially launched later this year. Plans are now getting more precise: in addition to India, Indonesia and Russia which were announced last year, in February South Africa was confirmed as the 4th market where the Datsun brand will be revived.
As far as Russia is concerned, last week Nissan Russia CEO Francois Goupil de Bouille announced that “the first Datsun cars will roll in Russian cities in March 2014”, with plans to sell 100,000 Datsuns annually in Russia by 2016. There will be two Russian Datsun models to start with: a notchback sedan based on the Lada Kalina and Granta platforms and a hatchback model based on the previous generation Nissan Note.
Click on ‘Read more’ below for more details on Datsun’s return.
As is the norm, everything the consumer can’t see will be shared but the visible parts of the car will be very different. A third model is in the works for a 2015 launch. Thanks to the Renault-Nissan alliance, Datsun will benefit from 10 years of experience from Renault with the Dacia brand, which should help it greatly avoiding the traps involved in making a low-cost brand successful.
The Datsun brand originally launched in Japan in 1932 and was first imported in the United States in 1958, where it soon became very successful, passing the 100,000 sales mark there in 1963. In 1968 the legendary 240Z sports coupe was launched and became the world’s best-selling sports car soon after. The completion of a process started in 1981, Nissan phased out the Datsun brand in March 1986 when all Datsun models were renamed Nissan. More on the Datsun brand here.
The Autobianchi A112 holds a special spot in my heart as its death in 1986 coincided with the birth of my passion for cars, aged 8… I remember proudly managing to get the brochure from the dealership, pretending it was for my Dad and knowing full well there wouldn’t be any left the following year!