For the New Zealand rock band, see The Datsuns.
Datsun was an automobile marque. There never was an actual "Datsun" company, as the brand name was used in production only by DAT Motors and its successor, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. The name was created in 1931 by the DAT Motorcar Co. for a new car model, spelling it as "Datson" to indicate its smaller size when compared to the existing, larger DAT car. Later, in 1933 after Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. took control of DAT Motorcar Co., the last syllable of Datson was changed to "sun", because "son" also means "loss" (損) in Japanese, and also to honour the sun depicted in the national flag, hence the name "Datsun": Dattosan (ダットサン, Dattosan?).. The Datsun brand was discontinued in March 1986. The Datsun name is most famous for the sports cars referred to as the Fairlady roadsters and later the Fairlady (240Z) coupes.
The origins of Datsun
Further information: Nissan
Before the Datsun brand name came into being, an automobile named the DAT car was built in 1914, by the Kwaishinsha Motorcar Works (快進自動車工場, Kaishin Jidōsha Kōjō?), in the Azabu-Hiroo District in Tokyo. The new car's name was an acronym of the company's partners' surnames:
- Kenjiro Den (田 健次郎, Den Kenjirō?)
- Rokuro Aoyama (青山 禄朗, Aoyama Rokurō?)
- Meitaro Takeuchi (竹内 明太郎, Takeuchi Meitarō?).
The firm was renamed Kaishinsha Motorcar Co. in 1918, seven years after their establishment and again, in 1925, to DAT Motorcar Co. DAT Motors constructed trucks in addition to the DAT passenger cars. In fact, their output focused on trucks since there was almost no consumer market for passenger cars at the time. Beginning in 1918, the first DAT trucks were assembled for the military market. The low demand from the military market during the 1920s forced DAT to consider merging with other automotive industries. In 1926 the Tokyo-based DAT Motors merged with the Osaka-based Jitsuyo Jidosha Co., Ltd. (実用自動車製造株式会社, Jitsuyō Jidōsha Seizō Kabushiki-Gaisha?) also known as Jitsuyo Motors (established 1919, as a Kubota subsidiary) to become DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (ダット自動車製造株式会社, Datto Jidōsha Seizō Kabushiki-Gaisha?) in Osaka until 1932.
The DAT corporation had been selling full size cars to Japanese consumers under the DAT name since 1914 (Madely, pg. 19), but in 1930 the Japanese government created a ministerial ordinance that allowed cars with engines up to 500 cc to be driven without a licence. (TOGO, pg. 11). DAT Automobile Manufacturing began development of a line of 495 cc cars to sell in this new market segment, calling the new small cars "Datson" - meaning "Son of DAT". The name was changed to "Datsun" two years later in 1933.(Madely, pg. 20)
The first prototype Datson was completed in the summer of 1931.(Nissan). The production vehicle was called the Datson Type 10, and "approximately ten" of these cars were sold in 1931. (JSAE). They sold around 150 cars in 1932, now calling the model the Datson Type 11(JSAE). In 1933 the government rules were revised to permit 750 cc engines, and Datsun increased the size of their microcar engine to the maximum size allowed (JSAE). These larger displacement cars were called the Datsun Type 12.(Nissan Heritage)
Datsun in the American market
The use of the Datsun name in the American market derives from the name Nissan used for its production cars. In fact, the cars produced by Nissan already used the Datsun brand name, a successful brand in Japan since 1932, long before World War II. In fact before the entry into the American market in 1958, Nissan did not produce cars under the Nissan brand name, but only trucks. Their in-house designed cars were always branded as Datsuns. Hence, for Nissan executives it would be only natural to use such a successful name when exporting models to the United States. Only in the 1960s did Nissan begin to brand some automobile models as Nissans, and these were limited to their high-end models, for example the Cedric luxury sedan. In America, the Nissan branch was named "Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A.", and chartered on September 28, 1960, in California. Nissan may have had no problems with using the name Nissan in America, but the small cars the firm exported to America were still named Datsun.
Corporate choice favoured “Datsun”, so as to distance the parent factory Nissan’s association by Americans with Japanese military manufacture. In fact Nissan's involvement in Japan's military industries was substantial. The company's car production at the Yokohama plant shifted towards military needs just a few years after the first passenger cars rolled off the assembly line, on April 11, 1935. By 1939 Nissan's operations had moved to Manchuria, then under Japanese occupation, where its founder and President, Yoshisuke Ayukawa, established the Manchurian Motor Company to manufacture military trucks.
Ayukawa, a well connected and aggressive risk taker, also made himself a principal partner of the Japanese Colonial Government of Manchukuo. Ultimately, Nissan Heavy Industries emerged near the end of the war as an important player in Japan’s war machinery. After the war ended, Soviet Union seized all of Nissan’s Manchuria assets, while the Occupation Forces made use of over half of the Yokohama plant. General MacArthur had Ayukawa imprisoned for twenty-one months as a war criminal. After release he was forbidden from returning to any corporate or public office until 1951. He was never allowed back into Nissan, which returned to passenger car manufacture in 1947 and to its original name of Nissan Motor Company Ltd. in 1949.
American service personnel in their teens or early twenties during the Second World War would be in prime car-buying age by 1960, if only to find an economical, small second car for their growing family needs. Yutaka Katayama, (Mr. "K") former president of Nissan's American operations, would have had his personal second world war experiences in mind supporting the name Datsun. Katayama's visit to Nissan’s Manchuria truck factory in 1939, made him realise the appalling conditions of the assembly lines, leading him to abandon the firm. In 1945, near the end of the war, Katayama was ordered to return to the Manchurian plant, however he rebuffed these calls and refused to return.
Katayama desired to build and sell passenger cars to people, not to the military; for him it was the name "Datsun" that survived the war with its purity intact, not "Nissan". This obviously led Katayama to have problems with the corporate management. The discouragement felt by Katayama as regards his prospects at Nissan, led to his going on the verge of resigning, when Datsun’s 1958 Australian Mobilgas victories vaunted him, as leader of the winning Datsun teams, to national prominence in a Japan bent on regaining international status.
Katayama was made Vice President of the Nissan North American company in 1960, and as long as he was involved in decision making, both as North American Vice President from 1960 to 1965, and then President of Nissan Motor Company – USA from 1965 to 1975, the cars were sold as Datsuns. “What we need to do is improve our car’s efficiency gradually and creep up slowly before others notice. Then, before Detroit realizes it, we will have become an excellent car maker, and the customers will think so too. If we work hard to sell our own cars, we won’t be bothered by whatever the other manufacturers do. If all we do is worry about the other cars in the race, we will definitely lose.”
In Japan, there appears to have been what probably constituted a long held 'official' company bias against use of the name “Datsun”. At the time, Kawamata was a veteran of Nissan, in the last year of his presidency, a powerful figure whose experience in the firm exceeded two decades. His rise to its leadership position occurred in 1957 in part because of his handling of the critical Nissan worker’s strike that began May 25, 1953, and ran for 100 days. During his tenure as Nissan President, Kawamata stated that he "regretted that his company did not imprint its corporate name on cars, the way Toyota does. ‘Looking back, we wish we had started using Nissan on all of our cars,’ he says. ‘But Datsun was a pet name for the cars when we started exporting.’ ”
Ultimately, the decision was made to stop using the brand name Datsun worldwide, in order to strengthen the company name Nissan.
“The decision to change the name Datsun to Nissan in the U.S. was announced in the fall of 1981. The rationale was that the name change would help the pursuit of a global strategy. A single name worldwide would increase the possibility that advertising campaigns, brochures, and promotional materials could be used across countries and simplify product design and manufacturing. Further, potential buyers would be exposed to the name and product when traveling to other countries. Industry observers, however, speculated that the most important motivation was that a name change would help Nissan market stocks and bonds in the U.S. They also presumed substantial ego involvement, since the absence of the Nissan name in the U.S. surely rankled Nissan executives who had seen Toyota and Honda become household words.”
Ultimately, the name change campaign lasted for a three year period from 1982 to 1984, and cost Nissan a figure in the region of US$500 million. Operational costs included the changing of signs at 1,100 Datsun dealerships, and amounted to US$30 million. Another US$200 million were spent during the 1982 to 1986 advertising campaigns, where the “Datsun, We Are Driven!” campaign yielded to “The Name is Nissan” campaign. (“The Name is Nissan” campaign was used for some years beyond 1985). Another US$50 million was lost in Datsun advertisements that were paid for but stopped or never used. A final large yet indefinite cost is assumed to have occurred from “brand confusion” as some North American buyers simply avoided the Datsun, Datsun by Nissan, or Nissan automobile altogether during this time period. If Nissan lost 0.3% (three tenths of one percent) of sales due to the confusion during the transitional period, the lost revenue would still amount to several hundred million dollars. Five years after the name change program was over, Datsun still remained more familiar than Nissan.
In 2001, Nissan marketed their D22 pick-up model in Japan with the name Datsun, this time however the use of the brand name was wholly restricted to this one specific model name. Production of this model was between May 2001 and October 2002