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Nissan gives Datsun brand a Go, best cheap cars

By AL SWANSON, UPI Auto Writer   |   July 21, 2013 at 5:30 AM   |   Comments

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Nissan is giving the Datsun brand a Go in India.

The auto giant decided to kill off the Datsun -- first sold as the Dat-GO in Japan 99 years ago -- in the 1980s but says now is the time to reprise the nameplate on a series of new low-cost, small, fuel-sippers in emerging markets.

The newest Datsun hatchback, called the Go, will be assembled at a Renault-Nissan Alliance plant in Chennai, India, and go on sale in India, Indonesia, South Africa and Russia next year. The five-seat runabout will sell for 400,000 rupees, about $6,670, making it affordable to aspiring youth or "the Risers" as Nissan calls them on Datsun's website.

The 13-foot-long Go has a tried and true configuration -- a 1.2-liter engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission.

The back-to-basics formula worked when the Datsun brand was sold in the United States. Its cars were popular with young, first-time buyers and the range of vehicles eventually went from entry-level starter cars like the Sunny 210, 1200 and 510 to the sporty Datsun 240Z coupe. The last Datsuns were made more than 30 years ago, so there may be a disconnect between the car's heritage and today's youth.

There are no plans to sell Datsuns in the United States where Toyota's Scion brand is targeted at youthful buyers. The Datsun badge was replaced by the Nissan logo in 1984.

Small car specialists Suzuki and Hyundai are India's top carmakers but overall vehicle sales in the country were down for the eighth straight month in June, off 9 percent.

The Wall Street Journal said Renault-Nissan sold 8.1 million vehicles last year, 30 percent of those in Brazil, India, Russia and China.

"The Datsun is back," Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said in New Delhi. "Datsun will help many realize the dream of car ownership." Ghosn said he hopes combined sales of Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun vehicles, will grow from 1.2 percent to 10 percent of India's domestic auto market by 2016.

After gaining foothold, the plan is for Datsun to go after middle class car-buyers in the Middle East and South America.

"When a customer buys his first new car in countries like India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa, first he dreams about it," Datsun chief Vincent Cobee said in a statement. "To realize the dream, customers need to have access, feel a sense of belonging towards the brand. Also, as this purchase will represent a significant part of their disposable income, it is important for them to have full trust in the brand and the product. So dream, access and trust are the key values for which the Datsun brand stands now."

"Our production plans for Datsun reflect Nissan Motor's commitment to building manufacturing capacity and establishing a meaningful presence in high-growth markets like India, and to keep pace with rapid changes in the global auto industry," Ghosn said.

"We see significant opportunity in these growth markets like India, Russia and Indonesia where demand is increasing and will continue to grow."


New Chevrolet EV wears the Spark badge

General Motors, which began experimenting with modern electric cars with the EV1 from 1996 to 1999, is rolling out an all-electric version of its tiny Spark subcompact in California and Oregon.

Engineers got rid of the standard 1.2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and added an electric motor mated to a 560-pound, 21.3-kWh lithium-ion battery pack located between the rear wheels.

Consumer Reports says the re-imagined Spark has a range of 82 miles and its new suspension gives it a fun agile ride. The car's onboard 3.3-kilowatt charger takes up to seven hours to recharge the battery -- twice the recharging time of the Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf -- but the dual charger port also can use the latest direct-current fast chargers that give the batteries an 80 percent recharge in 30 minutes.

To help drivers with "range anxiety" -- worrying about running out of battery power -- the Spark has a so-called "confidence meter" which shows estimates of remaining range depending on your driving style.

The Spark EV will sell for around $18,000 but can be leased for three years for $199 down and $99 a month.


More on affordable cars

The website CarFinance.com looked at what it costs to buy and operate a vehicle for five years and came up with the Top 5 cheapest cars to own.

The study considers sales prices, taxes, loans, down payments, insurance, maintenance and repairs, fees and registration and fuel. The winners were the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion.

CarFinance said it cost $41,281 to keep a Corolla on the road for five years, $43,714 for the Civic, $47,054 for the Altima, $48,081 for the midsize Accord and $48,180 for the Fusion.

The actual cost of ownership is based on assumptions of a 10 percent down payment, 15,000 miles annual mileage and a below prime 60-month loan.

CarFinance.com also said a new car loses about 11 percent of its value to depreciation when you drive it off a dealer's lot.


Ram 1500 named CR best full-size pickup

Consumer Reports has named the 2013 Ram 1500 the best full-size pickup sold in America.

The magazine said the Ram 1500 outscored the Toyota Tundra and Ford F-150 in its latest road tests -- a first for a Chrysler Group pickup. The redesigned Chevrolet Silverado was not tested this time around because the model is new for 2014. A new F-150 is coming for 2015.

"The Ram 1500 is surprisingly luxurious and refined -- but still fully capable of doing hard work when needed," Consumer Reports Auto Test Center Director Jake Fisher said in a statement. "Continued interior and powertrain improvements make the Ram a particularly well-rounded choice."

Fisher said the Ram scored 78 points out of 100, compared to 69 for the Tundra and 68 for the F-150.

The respected product-testing organization praised the Ram 1500 for one of "best rides of any pickup" and called Chrysler's touch-screen infotainment system "one of the best in the business."

The 2014 Ram 1500 HFE, which has a fuel economy rating of 18 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg in highway driving, is a hit and Ram sales are up 23 percent from January through June, AutoData Corp. said. The high mileage model has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, 8-speed transmission and stop-start technology that shuts off the idling engine at stoplights.

On the same day the Ram 1500 was recommended by CR, Chrysler announced a recall for 45,961 1500s to reprogram the Electronic Stability Control software. Chrysler said the ESC can be turned off when the pickup is started.

The recall affects only four-wheel drive Ram 1500 pickups. The ESC Off light on the dashboard stays on when the vehicle is started, and Chrysler warns that manually turning the ESC on may not activate the system.

No injuries or accidents have been blamed on the problem, which federal regulators said increases the likelihood of a crash.

Chrysler will make the repair at no cost to owners beginning in August.

In June, Ram recalled about 30,000 pickups to fix a faulty warning light.

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