And the rest is History...
The 610, the successor to the 510, hit the US market in '73. The 610, a
Bluebird 1800 in other markets, had a 1.8 liter L series engine and an
Independent Rear Suspension(irs) like the 510.
1973 was also the year of the first oil crisis, sparked by Israel's victory in
the Yom Kippur War. Opec started an oil embargo and gas prices went through
the roof. Katayama and Nissan USA had just launched its "Datsun
Classics" ad campaign. The campaign featured a series of picture ads
created by major artists, like Salvador Dali. They scrapped the campaign and
started the "Datsun Saves" campaign, based on the earlier success of
the 1200 in US government fuel economy tests. They filmed a 1200, a car due to
be replaced that year with the B210, driving from California to Maine, making
all sorts of Americana type pit stops. The new campaign was a huge success.
The 260z replaced the 240z in 1974, and brought a new 2.6 liter engine along. A
2+2 (2 front plus 2 rear seats) version was introduced in May. The 610
continued, now with the L20B engine, leaving the L18 to the new 710 Violet in
the US. The 710
was available in wagon, sedan and 2 door hardtop versions. Like the 610, it
featured all sorts of luxury accessories and was aimed at a higher-class
consumer. For those on a budget, the 1200 was replaced with the B210, a 1.4
liter car with sedan or hatchback models. Datsun sold an incredible amount of
The 260z was phased out in the US in mid 1975 and replaced by the 280z.
was phased out in 1975: Yutaka Katayama.
Katayama was a perfect example of the American auto entrepreneur. In his 15
years there, He did everything necessary to make Nissan a success in the US. He
made friends with the dealers, showed up at all sorts of public events,
entertained all the right people. He put Nissan on the map, and them kept it
there with innovative marketing. He made changes to cars to make them
acceptable to the US buyer, and made constant calls to Tokyo to ask for a
better automobile or a new modification. He had been bold, he had been
extravagant, and he had made a big splash with the American automobile press.
In short, he had been everything that was needed to succeed in America, and at
the same time been far too noticeable for his conservative colleagues in Japan.
Even worse, he basically ignored the intense politics of Nissan Japan, and in
the end all these things probably cost him his job. Early in 1975, he received
a telegram to return to Tokyo. He got there, was given a gold watch and farmed
out to a Nissan subsidiary. In 1982 Car and Driver published an article
entitled "where have you gone Yutaka Katayama?" in which they
lamented the vanishing of the most visionary Japanese businessman they had ever
known, and at the same time, slagged Nissan for its new ordinary product. Car
and Driver's praise was borne out a few years ago when Yutaka Katayama was
given a place in the American Automobile Hall of fame, amongst the likes of
Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers, Chrysler, and others.
Mr. K and Parnelli Jones
Katayama's replacement was Hiroshi Majima, who would oversee Nissan USA until
1980. Soichi Kawasoe, Katayama's Eastern counterpart from 1960-65, then overall
Nissan-USA vice-president, retired in 1976. The "Engineer" and "Mr. K" were
both now gone, and US Datsun product began to reflect it.
Hiroshi Majima Nissan USA President 1975-1980
The B210, 610, and 710 continued pretty much unchanged through to 1977 when the
610 was dropped in favor of the new 810. The F10 front wheel drive arrived in
the states in 76, followed by the new 77 200sx(the new Silvia which had been in
production in Japan since Sept 75).
1977 saw another major change in the management Hierarchy at Nissan, with the
appointment of Takashi Ishihara(formerly in charge of Nissan's exports) as
Nissan Japan's new President. Ishihara had been the man in charge of Nissan's
initial venture into the United States. He had been Katayama's and Kawasoe's
boss for the first five years in America. Ishihara never moved to the States,
instead staying in Japan and overseeing the American operations from there,
with the odd trip over to see just what was going on.
Takahashi Ishihara. President of Nissan USA 1960-1965. President of Nissan 1977-
Also introduced was the least collectible of the Z cars, the new 1979 280zx.
Sales for all Japanese Automakers had started to slow down by 1979 as Americans
got used to the price of gasoline and started buying bigger cars again. Then
the Middle East came into crisis again as the Shah of Iran was deposed, and
Opec tightened up again. The oil crisis was back in full forces, and the US
automakers were feeling the pain of returning to the bigger engined cars. Japan
was on top again by the end of 1980, with 10.1 million dollars in auto sales,
over half exports to the US. All this success led to quite bit of tension with
US automakers and the UAW. Both industry and unions lobbied the US government
to impose restrictions on the Japanese. Most Japanese automakers, with the
exception of Suzuki, formed alliances with US makers, or announced plans to
start production in the US in the next year or two.
1979 saw the introduction of the next generation of Silvia/200sx, this time
with the Napz 2 liter engine as opposed to the L20b in the previous model year.
(The Violet 510 soon switched to this engine, as did the pick up) This new
200sx was available in hatchback or two door coupe. A special edition 10th anniversary
280zx was introduced, the ZX10, featuring gold and black paint, special wheels,
a t bar roof and a whole list of special features. Only 3000 zx10's were built.
1981 saw a new beginning for Nissan, with the construction of a new plant in
Smyrna, Tennessee that would start producing trucks in 1983. A joint venture
with Alfa Romeo to build small cars in Italy was also signed around that time.
The new Maxima name was added to upscale versions of the 810, a turbo version
of the 280zx was introduced, and the 210, 310, and 510 lines continued, along
with the 720 pick up.
The Maxima version of the 810 differed from the standard version by having 4
wheel discs, a three speed automatic, and a vast array of luxury accessories.
In 1982 badges reading "Datsun by Nissan" appeared on some cars. This was the
of a 6 year effort by Nissan to rid itself of the Datsun name.The Nissan Sentra
and Stanza replaced the Datsun 510 and 210 for 1982. This was the beginning of
the end for the Datsun name. Maxima replaced 810 nameplates. The 200sx and
280zx continued basically unchanged through 'til 83, the last year of the
Datsun name. The Pulsar NX, the 310's replacement, rolled off the boat and was
marketed with a bunch of weird options, including a canopy back to replace the
In the early 80's, Datsuns had started being sold with "Datsun by
Nissan" nameplates, along with new names like Sentra, Maxima, and Pulsar.
Nissan didn't want to market 2 brand names anymore. The Datsun name finally
disappeared in 1983 after what one trade magazine described as "one of the
worst re-imaging campaigns in history". US trade restrictions in the
protectionist 80's are often cited as the reason for the name change, but it
was really a corporate image decision back in Japan. There is a theory that
Nissan initially sold cars in the US under the Datsun brand as a
way of avoiding tarnishing the Nissan name if their venture in the States
failed. The campaign to change the name continued for several more years,
of the people it was aimed at didn't understand what it was about.
Nissan suffered in the late 80's and 90's with increased competition from
Toyota, the rise of Honda, new American products, the invasion of Korean autos,
and the high value of the Yen. US sales dropped by 30 percent between 1991 and
In an odd twist, Nissan introduced the Infinity line in 1991 to compete with
Toyota's Lexus line of luxury cars. It appears the Nissan name was no longer
enough of a luxury marquee. The only US Nissan nameplates to survive from the
to the present day are the Maxima and Sentra, with all other models going out
of production or being replaced by other lines. The Fairlady has been
reintroduced recently as a 2003 model, the
Nissan nearly disappeared itself in the late '90's, only saved by a
revitalized line, including the Pathfinder and Xterra SUV's, the Frontier
Pickup's, the Altima, and a high performance Maxima. They didn't do it alone, French
automaker Renault signed a partnership agreement with the company and
restructured it. Under the leadership of new chief Carlos Ghosn, it looks like
Nissan is back on the road to success.
Update! The Datsun brand is alive again
Check it out!