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I would have liked to make the Datsun a year ago: Vincent Cobee

Datsun head says the local production of the car was his best takeaway from the project

Published: Feb 5, 2014 10:35:10 PM IST
Updated: Feb 5, 2014 10:39:16 PM IST
I would have liked to make the Datsun a year ago: Vincent Cobee
Image: Amit Verma

Q: Scared of the car market right now?
To respect it, media likes drama. Yes, the market has been very bad for 12 months. We all know. We have suffered. Thank you very much. At the end of the day, 15 cars per 1,000 people, net economic growth, political stability, economic reform, good education, emerging middle class: There’s no way India is going to be a few million car market. There is volatility but when we do cars we talk 10, 15 and even 20 years. Yes, I would rather have a great and not difficult market. But we didn’t build a plan that has a 12-month horizon. We built a plan because we know that this market needs to grow.

Q: Where’s the Datsun project right now?
We launched the production of the car yesterday. We are showing the car in various colours and accessories. So this is it. We are starting sales in the coming weeks. We announced that we will launch a second car (Datsun Go) by the end of this calendar year. So the project is out of the box now. We have made the car, we have passed the manufacturing approval, we are finalising our distribution plans. This year, we are going to have 100 sales points, which will go up to 300 by 2016.

Q: What’s the one thing that you don’t like about the Datsun?
It is too late. I would have liked to make it one year ago.

Q: What is the thing that you like a lot?
I am not a genuine car fanatic. I am a big fan of socio-economic development. What I like most about this project is the amount of passion that our technical centre in India had in putting this car together. You know one of the big assumptions of the Datsun is that you can empower local teams. So the first thing we said when we embarked on this is that it cannot be those cars that we make in Japan. We need to make them in India, in Russia and in Indonesia. We told the local teams here that the technical knowledge, the customer expectation, the sourcing, testing and validation, all of this you have to do because you know it better. When you come back and find that this has gained traction –this is one thing I am very proud of.
Q: Any export plans for the Datsun?
I am not saying. India is interesting on two counts. It is a tough customer and it is a very competitive place to make cars. If you do this you have got a great value proposition for many places. That car will be attractive in any place in the world. So export opportunities will come. But remember that exports are tactical opportunities, they are not the main business.

Q: What could go wrong with the Datusn?
The biggest thing which can go wrong is if we lose the faith. There will be ups and downs, it might take a little bit of time because the first time, the customer takes time to be convinced. That’s fine. If we start losing faith that this customer is not our customer and we should look at something else, then this is going to be tough. That’s my biggest concern today.

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