As you might have read elsewhere on this website, Nissan is reviving the Datsun brand, initially in Indonesia, Russia and India.
The 13 January 1972 issue of Autocar carried a multi-page advertising feature for Datsun, which was still a relatively new brand in this country at the time.
Part of this feature was an article catchily titled ‘Datsun’s sales policy in the UK’ by John Pinkerton, who had joined Datsun UK as sales director when the company was formed.
Despite the rather dry title, there are some interesting nuggets of information in his article. I didn’t know, for example, that Datsun had a troubled birth in this country: ‘Datsun cars were shown in the United Kingdom for the first time at the motor show in 1968. The concessionaire at that time was a sub-tenant of NSU, the German car importer, at premises at Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex.
‘After NSU in Germany merged with Audi, the future of the then separate franchises of NSU were not clear. The development of Datsun was very dependent on the future of the NSU premises at Shoreham and was held in abeyance and this situation was consequently a reason why Nissan-Datsun UK had no real development.
‘The NSU concession and the premises at Shoreham were finally bought and Nissan-Datsun went into liquidation and renounced the Datsun franchise. The new concessionaire was appointed under the name Datsun UK Ltd, located on the Churchill Estate at Lancing, with offices in Worthing.’
Pinkerton goes on to lay out Datsun’s sales policy. ‘It can be expressed in one sentence – planned, progressive expansion at a steady controlled rate. Datsun UK Ltd was formed at the end of 1970 and became operational in March/April 1971. We expected to sell in our first year – March/April 1971 to March/April 1972 – 12,000 to 13,000 cars.
‘Datsun UK has introduced nearly a whole range of cars in the period. The Datsun franchise offers one of the most comprehensive ranges in the UK. It can satisfy every customer need from the 100A Cherry, 988cc, front wheel drive for £766 for the standard model to the well-known 240Z sports.’
His views on the brand’s dealer network are also interesting: ‘Datsun’s sales policy will be achieved only by appointing a well-established, professional, family business, well known with deep roots and respected in their own locality.
‘A good dealer for us is not one who has only a flashy, glamorous showroom, but one who has also a large, efficient, well-equipped and profitable workshop. Datsun UK has 165 such dealerships throughout the country. These were selected from some four or five times this number of applicants.
‘The strength of the importer does not depend on the number of dealers, but on the quality of the dealers and the after-sales service which they are able to offer. Following this our future policy consists of not expanding the dealer network – the increase will be limited only to fill some geographical gaps for after-sales service – but our aim is to develop and consolidate our present dealer network to enable them to sell competitively in their area offering fair deals to customers interested in our cars.’
So that’s a little taste of how Datsun was born in the UK. It’ll be interesting to watch Nissan’s grand plan for the revived brand to unfold over the next couple of years. Shame we’re unlikely to see them here though…