Renault-Nissan looks to dethrone Maruti Suzuki

New Delhi: The Renault-Nissan Alliance has declared a virtual war in India’s small-car market, which also happens to be market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s bread-and-butter segment.

After the success of the Renault Kwid, which has sold 41,204 units in the six months to March and boasts an order book of 125,000 units, Nissan Motor India Pvt. Ltd has lined up the Datsun redi-Go, expected to be priced at around Rs.2.5 lakh.

Maruti Suzuki’s Alto, Alto K10 and Wagon R models sell more than 400,000 units a year in India, the world’s largest small-car market.

Last year, Renault-Nissan had launched the Datsun Go+, a compact multipurpose vehicle, following its Go small car, and expanding its network in small towns. However, the two Datsun models combined have only sold 45,000 units in India since Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, first introduced the brand in the country in 2014.

But the big bet is on the redi-Go, said Vincent Cobee, head of Datsun at Nissan Motor Co., in an interview on Thursday. “Strong innovation is actually getting traction, which means that when you put your ticket on your table and say I am willing to commit to a new platform and a new power train and attractive products. That’s the case of redi-Go. People react to that and say something new is happening. There is a new offer here. For substantially less than Rs.3 lakh, you can get a new car,” Cobee said.

Though Nissan did not announce price details on Thursday, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said the car will be priced around Rs.2.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

“The idea is to present the most affordable car in the segment,” the person said, requesting anonymity.

Based on the same platform as the Kwid, the redi-Go will go on sale from 1 May and deliveries will start from the first week of June. The small-car market, consisting of models that cost less than Rs.4 lakh, accounts for half of India’s car market, but few manufacturers have been able to break Maruti’s stranglehold on the segment.

The sub-Rs.4 lakh category includes cars such as Maruti Suzuki’s Alto and Wagon R, and Hyundai Motor India Ltd’s Eon and i10. Mint on 6 April reported that world’s largest car maker, Toyota Motor Corp., plans to introduce Daihatsu products in India. Daihatsu is a small-car specialist and competes directly with Suzuki Motor Corp. in many markets.

With Datsun cars, Nissan has taken a shot at incorporating Indian-style frugality in engineering and style. Internationally, Nissan stopped selling the Datsun in 1981 after selling more than 20 million units in 80 years.

Ghosn’s thought process was inspired by his close friend, former Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, who created the Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car and priced at Rs.1 lakh then, in 2008.

Eight years later, Tata Motors is in the midst of positioning the Nano as a smart car to boost flagging sales.