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Datsun is set to make its return with a launch in India next March.

Nissan will launch five new models as part of an ambitious plans to bring back the Datsun brand – which will make its debut in India, starting in March of 2014.

The re-introduction of the Datsun brand, which Nissan shelved in the early 1980s, is a key part of an effort by Nissan to boost its market share in South Asia, company officials said in Mumbai.  Nissan plans to expand its Indian dealer network from 95 to 145 outlets to coincide with the Datsun launch – and hopes to increase its market share there fivefold.

“Datsun is an important part of the heritage of Nissan,” said Ashwani Gupta, program director of Nissan’s newly-created Datsun Business Unit.

“We will offer our customers in India modern and spirited cars that they will be happy and proud to own—at an affordable price,” added Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has said the Datsun brand’s launch plans will focus on “optimistic,” up-and-coming customers in high-growth emerging markets.

The Japanese maker has yet to release specific details about the five Datsun products earmarked for India. Two will appear there in 2014, it confirmed, one going by the codename K2.

Datsun also is expected to play an important part in “Nissan Power 88,” a comprehensive, six-year business plan that will accelerate the company’s global growth.

Even before the launch of Datsun, Nissan has laid out some aggressive growth plans for the Indian market, currently the third-largest in Asia.  By the end of the current fiscal year next March it hopes to triple sales to about 100,000. Meanwhile, by 2016, it hopes to reach a 10% market share.  That will mean exceeding the growth rate of the market by tackling established Indian leaders

“We know that the competition like Hyundai and Suzuki are strong, but nobody can dominate the market indefinitely,” said Kenichiro Yomura, who took over Nissan’s Indian operations in March. “Datsun is not a cheaper version of Nissan. It’s a real car built specifically for customers in India.”

But price clearly will be an issue.  The majority of sales for the dominant Maruti Suzuki joint venture are in the minicar segment, its best-selling Alto model costing just 246,500 rupees, or $4,439. By comparison, the current bottom-end model in the Nissan line-up is the larger Micra which starts at 430,122 rupees, or $7,700.

With many analysts predicting India could soon become the world’s third-largest national automotive market, behind China and the U.S., it surprised few that Nissan would first re-launch the Datsun brand there.  It has also targeted Russia, Indonesia and South Africa and will likely also aim for other emerging markets in Africa and other parts of the world.

Part of the goal will be to localize production – and to make sure each vehicle is targeted at the distinct local needs of the market, which will clearly vary between the first markets Datsun is entering.

The Datsun name was used in various markets through the late 1980s, when Nissan decided to adopt one brand globally. The switch was blamed for significant problems, especially in key models like the United States.

Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.

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