It has been just 12 short months since the iconic Datsun brand returned to South Africa. The arrival brought with it waves of nostalgia from one generation of motorists, and excitement to another who were introduced to the qualities that has made the brand a legend.
True to form, Datsun has again captured hearts and minds, but this time it has been a new generation of drivers, and the new generation Datsun GO that has set the pace.
A manufacturer could ask for nothing more after being in the market for just a year, than to see on its first birthday that their initial market offering has hit the number one spot in a highly competitive segment. When it has done so during an economic downturn that has negatively impacted the South African motor industry, the celebrations are made even sweeter, says Des Fenner, General Manager at Datsun South Africa.
“Our impact has been quite dramatic. We have seen sales of the Datsun GO reach 5 972 units since the car hit South Africa’s roads in October 2014, causing the model to soar to first position in the A segment in the critical dealer channel, where it continues to lead,” says Mr Fenner.
“The high volume of GOs that have driven off our dealers” floors is testament to the model’s mass appeal, and has done much to secure its place as a serious contender for the future. This, despite the pressures being felt by the motor industry in general.”
Quizzed about the success and appeal of the GO, Mr Fenner says that it was undoubtedly ‘the right vehicle at the right time’ for the South African market, because it:
- Brought to market, in the 21st century, the values that made the brand a leader in the 20th century. Essentially, these values are:
- Enabling a new generation of drivers to break through to complete independence and freedom by purchasing an affordable, brand new car.
- Providing a stylish, modern vehicle that retains a sporty look, but also includes a roomy cabin, essential features that appeal to younger motorists, and also offers low fuel consumption, affordable maintenance costs and safety features.
- Offers a vehicle that features good road clearance and all round visibility – essential in a market where road quality is sometimes questionable.
- Brings to a younger generation of drivers (the ‘risers’) opportunities to customise the exterior and interior of their vehicles by choosing a wide range of accessories, and so stress their unique, independent outlook.
- Building in low running costs, confirmed by the 2015 Kinsey Report, which ranked the Datsun GO as the most affordable A segment vehicle in terms of maintenance, with the most affordable parts.*
But, stresses Mr Fenner, although the GO has been the hero of the piece since the sparkling return of Datsun to South Africa, other market initiatives and successes have played their part to make the Datsun brand a legend in 12 short months.
Establishing a network of 61 Datsun dealerships – from an initial 44 – through a framework of dedicated and consistent showroom configurations, has ensured that the GO has been visible across the country and able to attract the attention it deserves.
“One of Datsun’s core principles is adding value,” continues Mr Fenner. “We achieved this during our first year of operations by launching a driving simulator in collaboration with Sim U Teach in Bloemfontein. This enables learner drivers to safely and comfortably simulate various driving conditions without taking to the road. It is invaluable in preparing a new generation of drivers for the unexpected events they could encounter on South Africa’s highways and byways.”
Now available in 9 dealers throughout the country, each Datsun GO driving simulator is equipped with a GO driving cockpit and active vehicle controls (including a clutch, brake and accelerator), traffic and engine noise with audio response, and all K53 driver-training modules. The simulators will also be monitored for their contribution to promoting road safety, and consideration will be given to rolling out this technology at all Datsun dealers countrywide.
“We are very excited to be playing an active part in teaching our young drivers practices that will improve safety on South Africa’s roads.”
Though much has already been achieved, ambitions for the immediate future, according to Mr Fenner, include ensuring that the Datsun GO continues to offer local drivers cost-effective, safe and exciting motoring while remaining at the top of the A segment.
“Our other objective is to open more dealerships as soon as possible. The great results and market acceptance our first offering has achieved has made us eager to share the Datsun GO with motorists in areas where we do not have a presence as yet. We look forward to 2016 and the undoubted success the new year will bring.”
*Kinsey said: “The new Datsun GO is a clear winner here with a parts basket of R37 631 (and a low selling price of R102 500). It’s a great first-time purchase, making owning a new car affordable. It may lack a few refinements like ABS brakes and airbags, but it’s a solid little vehicle for basic transport.