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.

B210

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 210's.

The 260z was phased out in the US in mid 1975 and replaced by the 280z. Something else 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 beginning 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 hatch.

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, though most 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 92 alone.

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 80's 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 350z.

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!


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