Those Americans who remember using rotary phones, Atari game systems and watched the Watergate hearings live will also recall that before there was a Nissan brand in the U.S. there was Datsun.

In 1981, Nissan decided to fold the Datsun brand into the Nissan brand name, leaving consumers confused and perplexed. But earlier this year, the company announced it would bring back the Datsun brand, selling cars for around $3,000 in some markets where car ownership is just starting to become prevalent.

It's a plan that India's Tata tried with its $3,000 Tata Nano, which so far has been a failure. But Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told The Wall Street Journal that the new Datsun brand will be different.

Datsun's cars will be "modern and fresh," because even people struggling to own a car want a vehicle that "makes them feel good and is in their budget."

But Nissan admits the cars will have to be much more bare-boned than people would expect in richer economies. They'll scale back on safety features, the engine will be louder, and the cars will only be offered in manual transmission. That's why the Datsun brand won't ever come back to the U.S., Ghosn said.

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