* Datsun Russia sales to start in summer
* Car will be priced under 400,000 roubles ($11,300)
* Renault-Nissan still bullish on Russian market despite
By Megan Davies
MOSCOW, April 4 The head of the Renault-Nissan
alliance said on Friday he sees great potential in Russia
despite a slowdown in car sales and is unperturbed by the
geopolitical situation, seeming to shrug off Moscow's standoff
with the West over Ukraine.
Carlos Ghosn, who heads both Nissan Motor Co and
Renault as chief executive, was in Moscow to unveil
the resurrected Datsun model for the Russian market.
He said that the auto company's supply chain had not been
disrupted by the Western sanctions imposed on some Russian
individuals over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
"I don't think the geopolitical situation, which can be
bumpy today... it's not going to last," Ghosn told reporters
after unveiling a four-door family sedan model, the Datsun
on-Do, which will retail at under 400,000 roubles ($11,300).
"At a certain moment it will be behind you. Our strategy
doesn't take into consideration short-term bumps but has to take
into consideration trends and long-term potential, and we have
no hesitation about the potential for the Russian market."
Japan's Nissan retired the Datsun brand in 1981 but
announced last year that it would relaunch the small car in
emerging markets, targeting Indonesia, India, Russia and South
Africa. It is partly seeking to lure young first-time buyers
away from the used car market.
Russia has a growing middle class with disposable income,
low car density and an ageing fleet on the road - all factors
that should support future sales.
However, car sales have faltered as economic growth has
slowed, causing people to put off large purchases. Car sales
fell 5 percent in 2013, according to lobby group AEB, which is
forecasting another weak year because of the fragile economy.
But Ghosn said he took a longer-term view of things.
"I'm bullish on the market, I recognize the fact the market
declined last year and will probably decline this year, but when
we invest, we engage not for this year but five, 10, 20 years
down the road," he said.
Datsun will benefit from the weaker rouble as it has
localised production at Avtovaz's Togliatti plant and
is using local supplies as much as possible, he said. Nissan and
Renault have struck a deal to take control of Avtovaz by
"The weakness of the currency is an advantage for local
brands," Ghosn said. "Foreign brands import a lot of cars. So
when the rouble weakens, all those with high euro or dollar
content are disadvantaged."
The rouble has dropped 5 percent this year as investors
price in the risks related to Russia's annexation of Crimea and
the economic retaliation from the West. A falling rouble reduces
consumers' purchasing power and makes it more expensive for
automakers to buy parts from abroad.
Ghosn said that the alliance of auto brands aim to take a 40
percent market share in the Russian market, although he did not
give a time frame. Renault, Nissan and Avtovaz currently have a
combined share of 32 percent according to figures from the AEB.
($1 = 35.5416 Russian roubles)
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)