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201223 May

datsun 240z

The Datsun 240Z or 'Fairlady' as it was also called, firmly established the brand as a maker of performance cars.


DAT Motorcar Co was set up in 1914, and in its initial years, it mostly manufactured trucks for the Japanese military. The DAT car was named by combining the initials of three men who invested in Kwaishinsha: Den, Aoyama and Takeuchi. When in 1931, the Japanese Imperial Government issued an official decree that cars less than 500cc in capacity could be driven without a license, the company began manufacturing small cars with 495cc engines, named ‘Datson’ or ‘Son of DAT’. In 1932, the name was later changed to ‘Datsun’ in obeisance to the sun in the Japanese flag and also because the word ‘son’ could be inferred to mean ‘loss’ or ‘disadvantage’ in Japanese.


Nissan Motor Company took control of DAT in 1933. Nissan was an important financier of the Japanese government’s war effort during WWII, although it did produce passenger vehicles in the 1930s. After the end of the Second World War, American General MacArthur had Nissan’s founder Yoshisuke Aikawa imprisoned for war crimes. Nissan Motor Company was re-established after the War in 1949.


Another Japanese official, Yutaka Katayama, fondly referred to as “Mr K”, who initially professed his desire to resign from Nissan at the end of the War, was named as the President of Nissan’s North American operations. Nissan Motor Corporation – USA was officially chartered in California in 1960.


1961 nissan cedric

The Cedric saloon was the first car to be sold as a Nissan in North America.


During the 1960s and 70s, the company sold cars in North America under both the Nissan and Datsun brands. The first Nissan car to officially go on sale in America in 1960 was the Cedric, a large, luxurious family sedan.


The Patrol, itself based on the Willys Jeep, went on sale 1962, just after the Datsun 2000 was launched. The Datsun 2000 was the first in a line of ‘Z’ cars, which the company proudly proclaimed as the best-selling sportscar of the time. And it was, selling half a million units before the end of the decade.


In 1972, Datsun introduced the four-door 510 sedan with a 1200cc four-cylinder engine, which became a huge seller, especially because of its frugal, fun-to-drive character. It was cheap to buy and run as well, and established Datsun’s reputation as a maker of reliable family cars.


datsun 510

The Datsun 510 was much loved, and is something of a collector's car today.


Sometime in 1981 however, Nissan’s officials began to revisit the firm’s branding strategy. It was felt a single brand would help to simplify operations, streamline production, and make it easier for customers around the world to relate to the brand. Some sceptics felt that it was likely because Nissan wanted to list its stocks on the US stock exchanges. A contributing factor could also be Japanese pride and competitiveness. It was believed that some senior Nissan officials were rankled by the fact that competing brands Honda and Toyota had almost become household names, while the recall for Nissan was nominal.


Whatever the reasons, by 1987, Datsun as a brand ceased to exist, with all cars sold globally being branded as Nissans.


In March this year, Nissan Motor Company made a significant global announcement, saying that it would revive the Datsun brand in key emerging markets across Asia and Europe, including India, Indonesia and Russia. Brazil and China could also figure in Nissan’s plans for Datsun, and a potential revival in North America cannot be ruled out either.


datsun logos

The original Datsun logo (L) and the new Datsun logo which was revealed in March 2012.

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