Birth of Datsun and Origin of the Brand

Birth of Datsun and origin of the brand name

The company that created the DAT (or DAT Motor Vehicle), which is where the name “Datsun” came from, was Kwaishinsha Jidosha Kojo, founded in 1911 by M. Hashimoto. His dream was to make cars that were suited to Japan and, if possible, export them. In 1914, when he completed work on a small 2-cylinder 10-horsepower car, he borrowed the initial letters of the surnames of his three investors (K. Den, R. Aoyama, and M. Takeuchi) and gave the name “DAT” to his new car.

Later Kwaishinsha merged with the Jitsuyo Jidosha Co., Ltd. to form the Dat Jidosha Seizo Co. It went on to produce military vehicles, but in 1931 the company developed a new passenger car (500cc, 10ps), which embodied the DAT spirit. It was, however, more compact than the original DAT, so it was called DATSON – in the sense of “Son of DAT”. In Japanese, though, son is the word for “loss” so instead it was changed to “SUN”, which has brighter associations, when the car went on sale in March 1932.

Prototype DATSON, completed in the summer of 1931 (given the type name DAT-91)

Kwaishinsha and the DAT

Around the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912) and the start of the Taisho (1912-26), momentum began to build for manufacturing cars in Japan. And one of the earliest companies to do this was the Kwaishinsha Company an automobile factory, established in 1911 in the Hiroo district of Tokyo. It was just a small workshop with 6 employees, but the founder of the company, Masujiro Hashimoto, had big dreams and even planned to start exporting cars in the future. Hashimoto had studied in the US as an overseas OTJ trainee supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, and he had been impressed by the technological expertise and productivity of the American auto industry.

It was in 1914 that the company completed a small passenger car which featured 2-cylinder in line 10ps engine and a top speed of 32km/h. Called the DAT, this was an ambitious engineering challenge that made maximum use of domestically produced components. It caused a stir when it was awarded a copper medal at the Taisho Expo in Ueno, Tokyo, that same year. However, there was still little demand for passenger cars, and a tough round lay ahead. In 1918, Kwaishinsha made a fresh start, manufacturing military vehicles. At the same time, though, it continued development of a small passenger car. After changing its name to Dat Jidosha Seizo Co., it completed work on the DATSON in 1931.

(photo) The Kwaishinsha Company an automobile factory (circa 1914).
The DAT, with its 2-cylinder 10ps engine, was greatly admired and won a copper medal at the Taisho Exposition. It could travel at 32km/h.


Yoshisuke Aikawa and the Tobata Casting Company

The founder of the Nissan Group was Yoshisuke Aikawa (1880-1967). Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in 1910 he started the Tobata Casting Company in Tobata, Fukuoka, and thus helped to lay the foundations for the development of Japan’s automobile industry. Tobata Casting began casting car components in 1928, supplying them to DAT Jidosha Seizo and also to Ford and GM, which operated factories in Japan.

With the dawning of the Showa period in 1926, a government initiative led to the formation of a consortium of 3 Japanese companies (DAT Jidosha Seizo, Ishikawa Automobile Manufacturing, and Tokyo Gas and Electric Industrial Co.). However, Aikawa was determined that private enterprise should be behind the mass production of domestic cars. While acquiring DAT Jidosha Seizo shares, in 1933 he succeeded in importing from America presses, forging equipment and other machine tools.

Straight away Aikawa set up an automobile department within Tobata Casting and began producing the Datsun, for which he had the manufacturing rights. In December 1933, he established the Jidosha-Seizo Co.,Ltd., a joint venture of Nihon Sangyo (of which Aikawa was President) and Tobata Casting Company. The new company – which took the name Nissan Motor Co.,Ltd. – was located in Yokohama and had the modern facilities required for mass production.

1937 photograph of Tobata Casting Company, which gave rise to the Nissan Motor

Nissan Heritage: 1910 – 2006

1910 – 1919

Only foreign cars from Ford and GM (General Motors) were seen on Japan’s roads in the Meiji and Taisho eras. At that time, men like Yoshisuke Aikawa had zealously begun manufacturing vehicles. They are the ones who built the foundation of Japan’s automobile industry of today.

Yoshisuke Aikawa establishes Tobata Casting Co., Ltd.

Yoshisuke Aikawa was born in Yamaguchi prefecture. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University (present Tokyo University). When he lived in the United States, Yoshisuke concealed his academic accomplishments and worked in a factory, where he developed casting skill. He established Tobata Casting Co., Ltd., after his return to Japan.

Establishment of the Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works
Masujiro Hashimoto led by establishing Kwaishinsha. The factory embarked on domestic automobile production, which became the forerunner of the domestic automobile industry.

Completed manufacturing of the DAT car
The DAT car was named by combining the initials of three men who invested in Kwaishinsha: Den, Aoyama and Takeuchi. The DAT car was entered in the Taisho Exposition held in the same year.

Starts anew under the name Kwaishinsha Motor Car Co., Ltd.
The Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works grew in size to 600 thousand yen in capital, with 60 employees. They completed and released Model 41 DAT in the following year, mounting the first single body casting 4-cylinder engine in Japan.

Establsihment of Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd.
William R. Gorham, an American engineer, developed a three-wheeled vehicle in 1919. This drew attention from a businessman in Osaka, who established Jitsuyo Jidosha Co., Ltd.. The mechanical equipment, auto parts, and materials were ordered and imported from the United States. Jitsuyo Jidosha Co. was a modern automobile factory of the time.

1920 – 1929

Establishment of DAT Jidosha & Co., Ltd.
Kwaishinsha established DAT Jidosha & Co., Ltd. for the purpose of strengthening sales.

Establishment of DAT Seizo Co., Ltd.
Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. became DAT Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. and merged with DAT Jidosha Trading Company.

1930 – 1939

DAT Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. Becomes affiliated with Tobata Casting Co., Ltd.
Tobata Casting Co., Ltd., who was manufacturing the automobile parts, planned to advance to the automobile industry and received DAT Jidosha Seizo to be affiliated under them.

1932 The birth of Datsun
In 1931, DAT Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. became a subsidiary of Tobata Casting Co., Ltd., and developed its first 495cc compact size passenger vehicle. In the following year, 1932, the company changed its name to Datsun: DAT was taken from the initial letters of three men. The SON was changed to SUN, since the SON sounded the same as a word meaning “disadvantage” in Japanese.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., is established in Japan.
Tobata Casting Co., Ltd. Establishes Automobile Division
Tobata Casting Co., Ltd. set up an Automobile Division in March 1933 and began automobile production in earnest. In October of the same year, the company purchased more than 66,000m2, of reclaimed land in Shinkoyasu on the coast in Yokohama City (the site where the present Yokohama Plant is located).

Established Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. In Yokohama
Yoshisuke Aikawa’s two holding companies, Nihon Sangyo and Tobata Casting, which he also established, invested in and established Jidosha Seizo Co., Ltd. on December 26.

Coporate name changes to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
The corporate name was changed to Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. When Nihon Sangyo Co., Ltd/ became the 100 percent investor at the general meeting of stockholders in June.

The first car manufactured by a fully integrated assembly system rolls off the line at the Yokohama Plant.

The Datsun Type 15 is the first mass-produced Japanese vehicle. Other Type 15 models include a mini pickup and delivery van.

1940 – 1949

The first knockdown (KD) units are shipped to Dowa Jidosha Kogyo in Manchuria.

Construction of the Yoshiwara Plant is completed; operations begin in October. In December, World War II progresses and production of cars and trucks is completely stopped.

The head office is moved to Nihonbashi, Tokyo, and the Company name is changed to Nissan Heavy Industries, Ltd.

The first postwar-manufactured car rolls off the line.

In January, headquarters returns to Yokohama. In August, research and development of textile machinery begins.

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is reestablished as the Company name.

1950 – 1959

Nissan acquires an equity interest in Minsei Diesel Motor Co., Ltd. (now called Nissan Diesel Motor Co., Ltd.)

Nissan enters into a technological cooperation agreement with Austin Motor Co., Ltd. of the United Kingdom.

R&D on rocket motors commences. The All Nissan Motors Workers’ Union (a new labor union) is established

Forklift production starts.

The first Datsun sedan arrives in the United States. The strong, heavy 1200 Sedan packs a 48-hp 1200-cc engine in thick body panels. In September, Datsuns are entered in the 6th Australia Mobilgas Trial, with one taking first place for the first time

The first Datsun compact pickup is sold in America. Originally imported with a modest 37-hp 1000-cc engine, the upgraded model features a 48-hp 1200-cc version. This quarter-ton pickup firmly establishes Datsun in the American market. In March, production commences at Yulon Motor Co., Ltd. in Taiwan, the Company’s first overseas KD factory.

1960 – 1969

Toward the end of this decade of change, Nissan has built a strong reputation in both the American and the Japanese markets. The Datsun 2000 roadster, valued both for its style and performance, becomes synonymous with early Nissan design. Soon after, the Datsun “Z” changes the way people think of sports cars.

Nissan Motor Corporation USA (NMC) is established in Gardena, California. The model year witnesses the birth of Datsun’s first sports car, the SPL 210. This high, narrow 4-seat roadster features a fold-down soft-top with side curtains, “4 on the floor,” and a 48-hp 1200-cc engine that was soon replaced by a more powerful 85-hp version. In June, Nissan wins the 10th Annual Deming Prize for excellence in industrial engineering.

Nissan Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. is established. (Production begins in July 1966.)

Focused in American driving need, the Bluebird is the first Datsun with a fully-synchronized 3-speed transmission. It also sports classic two-tone paint, wide white-walls and optional bucket seats. Off the road, Nissan’s first utility vehicle, Patrol, makes its debut, with TV hero Roy Rogers as its spokesperson. Pitched as the world’s most powerful, most advanced 4-wheel drive vehicle, the Patrol’s brawny 145-hp 4000-cc 6-cylinder engine develops enough torque “to climb trees.”

In March, construction of the Oppama Plant is completed (partial operations began in October 1961).

Construction of the Zama Plant is completed (partial operations began in December 1964).

The first Japanese-owned production facility in North America, Nissan Mexicana (NMEX), manufacturers its first vehicle. Nissan Motor Co. (Australia) Pty. Ltd. is established. In August, Nissan merges with Prince Motors, Ltd. of Japan; the Murayama Plant is acquired by Nissan.

The Datsun that is most desired by collectors, the 2000 Roadster, is also the first Japanese production sports car to come with a 5-speed transmission. That, plus its robust 150-hp engine, make it extra fun to drive. Production is limited to 1,000 and the first 10 are lightweight versions for racing. The 2000 Roadster wins 10 SCCA National Championships between 1967 and 1987.

Datsun launches the first car styled for the U.S. market, the Datsun 5100. Headquarters operations are moved to the Company’s new building in the Ginza area of Tokyo. In October, a business cooperation agreement is concluded with Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd.

Datsun introduces the “Z” as a 1970 model. By offering European performance plus creature comforts like roll-up windows and a heater, all at an affordable price, the 240Z becomes the best-selling sports car in the world. The Corvette took nearly 25 years to sell 500,000 units; the Z does it in fewer than 10.

Cumulative exports surpass 1,000,000 units.

1970 – 1979

Annual sales in the United States pass the quarter-million mark. Nissan also establishes itself on the race-track: The BRE 510 wins the SCAA 2.5 liter Trans Am Championship in 1971, claiming Nissan’s first professional racing championship. It proceeds to dominate the series, winning 15 out of 21 events. Meanwhile, another 510 wins the East African Safari, while yet another wins the American Rally Championship in 1971. Today, the 510 enjoys a cult-like following and is still active in SCAA club racing.

The Lambda 4S-5 successfully launches Japan’s first satellite, OHSUMI. Nissan developed and manufactured the rocket engine and launch vehicle. In March, Nissan moves into the marine engine field.

The civilian 510 introduces a new concept: a 4-dor sports sedan. This good-looking, 5-passenger family car is fun to drive and economical. Over 300,000 sedans and wagons are sold. As a result, race-bred sportiness remains very much part of Nissan’s DNA today.

Cumulative domestic production surpasses 10 million units.

The 1-millionth Datsun vehicle is sold in America.

Nissan Science Foundation is established.

Datsun becomes the top U.S. vehicle importer. Cumulative domestic sales in Japan surpass 10 million units.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing Co. (Australia) Ltd. is established and full-scale operation begins.

Nissan expands the idea of how much work a truck can do by introducing the King Cab, the first extended cab pickup truck. Cumulative production surpasses 20 million units.

Nissan Design International (NDI) is established in La Jolla, California, to provide American concepts and style to Nissan vehicles. Among their many creations (including today’s popular Xterra) is the “out there” Gobi Truck concept. Developed in the late 1980s, it is a direct extension of the very first Datsun truck.

1980 – 1989

In the 1980s, the Nissan brand comes into its own as the first Nissan truck is manufactured in the U.S. Not long after this milestone, Nissan introduces its Infiniti line of luxury vehicles, ending the decade with a tremendous new business venture.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation (NMMC) is established in Smyrna, Tennessee, to fulfill the growing demand for Nissan vehicles. The first Datsun truck rolled off the line in June 1983; the first Sentra (Sunny), in March 1985.

Nissan begins worldwide marketing of vehicles under the Nissan name as part of a new corporate identity program.

Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC), Nissan’s financing division, is established in Torrance, California.

Nissan’s rich off-road truck racing history includes 19 championships from 1982 – 1992. A King Cab desert racer competing as an HDRA/SCORE Class 1 Unlimited Vehicle, packs a sand-scorching 380 hp. It has full-time 4WD, a radical mid-engine design and a 4-wheel fully independent suspension.

Worldwide marketing of vehicles using the Nissan name begins. And the first truck produced by Nissan in America rolls off the line in Smyrna, Tennessee. Nissan Research and Development (NRD) is established in Michigan.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. is established (production begins in July 1986). Cumulative domestic sales in Japan surpass 20 million units.

Legendary Hollywood actor Paul Newman races the Newman/Sharp Trans-Am 300ZX to an SCCA GT1 championship in 1985 and 1986. Particularly noteworthy is the 1985 win, which is Nissan’s 50th national SCCA championship. Meanwhile, the first Sentra rolls off the line in Smyrna.

The H-I rocket, featuring the fixed apogee motor designed and produced by Nissan in Japan, successfully launches the engineering test satellite KIKU-5.

Nissan driver Geoff Brabham wins the first of four consecutive IMSA Camel GTP Drivers Championships. The streak includes eight straight races, breaking the American road record. Almost unbeatable, the IMSA GTP Race Car dominates with a breathtaking top speed of 200 mph.

Nissan acquires equity in Barrett Industrial Truck Inc. of the United States, a manufacturer of forklifts, and decides to locally manufacture forklifts.

Nissan European Technology Centre Ltd. is established in the United Kingdom.

It’s a year of remarkable milestones: Nissan launches the Infiniti line of luxury vehicles. NMMC produces its 1-milionth vehicle. And Nissan begins the Summer Institute for historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Nissan Europe N.V., the Company’s regional headquarters for European operations, and Nissan Distribution Service (Europe) B.V., are established in the Netherlands. (Operations begin in April 1990.)

1990 – 1999

During the 1990s, Nissan demonstrates its agility while retaining the Nissan heritage and moving in new directions. More cars begin rolling the Smyrna assembly line, and quality awards are given, too.

Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) is established in Torrance, California.

Nissan North America, Inc., the Company’s regional headquarters for North American operations, is established in the Torrance, California. Operations begin in April, 1990.

The 300ZX (Fairlady Z) wins the 1990 Import Car of the Year award In the United States. Nissan acquires an equity interest in Siam Motors Co., Ltd., in Thailand.

Nissan takes a big leap forward in green technology, lending its Alternative Fuel Vehicle to a California testing program, and unveiling the Future Electric Vehicle concept car. Nissan also receives its first environmental award from the EPA.

In a joint venture with Hitachi, Ltd., Nissan establishes Xanavi Informatics Corporation for the rapidly growing field of automobile information and communications systems and equipment.

The Altima rolls off the assembly line in Tennessee and the Sentra surpasses two million sold in the U.S.

The Hokkaido Proving Grounds is established in Hokkaido as a cold-weather testing facility.

Nissan commences U.S. sales of the multipurpose Quest minivan, a joint project with Ford Motor Co.

The March wins the ’92-’93 Japanese Car of the Year award and the RJC New Car of the Year 1992-1993 award in Japan.

Nissan has big reason to celebrate its 10th anniversary of manufacturing in the U.S. with the Altima topping the list in new nameplate sales and the Maxima surpassing one million models sold.

Nissan and the Zhengzhou Light Truck Factory form a joint venture, Zhengzhou Nissan Automobile Co., Ltd., for the production of commercial vehicles in China.

Nissan begins production and sales of the AD Resort wagons and pickups in Thailand and Taiwan, specifically for Asian markets.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. earns a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement for three consecutive years.
Nissan Middle East FZE is established in Dubai, UAE as the Company’s regional business management company for the Middle East.

Nissan introduces the all-new 200SX and fourth-generation Sentra.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. begins production exports of the Micra (March) to Australia.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A. commences production at a new engine and transmission plant in Decherd.

Nissan is named “Best of the Best” by the EPA. NMMC is lauded as the most productive plant in North America in “The Harbour Report” for a fourth consecutive year since 1994.

A Nissan R390GT1 is placed third in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

The Aerospace Division’s Tomioka Plant is completed and becomes operational in May.

Nissan and Renault sign an agreement for a global alliance, including equity participation.

Nissan begins driving tests of a methanol fuel cell vehicle.

The company announces the Nissan Revival Plan (NRP).

Nissan introduces the Frontier Crew Cab, the first compact truck with four full-sized doors. The Frontier, along with the Xterra and Pathfinder, are named official vehicles of the L.A. County lifeguards and become a hit on the popular TV series “Baywatch.”

2000 – 2009

Over the past decade a SHIFT_ has been made. Nissan has nearly doubled the number of models offered and nearly doubled its sales. In 10 years, the diverse lineup has grown to include Nissan’s first full-sized truck, all-new hybrid technology and a 21st-Century supercar. This is only the beginning of what’s to come.

Nissan begins sales of the super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) Sentra CA in California.

Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A is merged into Nissan North America, Inc.

Nissan starts to sell Renault vehicles through its domestic dealers.

Nissan and Suzuki Motor Corporation reach the agreement that Suzuki will supply mini-vehicles to Nissan on an OEM bases.

Nissan starts the construction of vehicle assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi.

Nissan launches driving tests of the Xterra FCV, a direct-hydrogen-fueled fuel cell vehicle, on public roads this month, based at a facility in Sacramento, CA in the US.

Nissan and Renault inaugurate the first new common plant in Brazil.

Nissan Altima wins “2002 North American Car of the Year Award”.

Nissan announces NRP conclusion one year earlier than planned.

Renault raises its stake in Nissan to 44.4%. Nissan owns 13.5% of Renault’s share capital. In May, Nissan increases its stake in Renault to 15 percent.

The Infiniti G35 Sport Sedan and Sport Coupe win MOTOR TREND’S “2003 Car of The Year” in U.S.

The all-new reintroduced Z makes a comeback, and Nissan introduces its first full-sized truck, Titan.

Nissan opens Nissan design centre Europe in London.

Nissan reports record profitability with 10.8% operating margin for FY 2002.

Nissan inaugurates new plant in Canton, Mississippi.

Nissan and Dongfeng announce the establishment of Dongfeng Motor Co., Ltd. in China.

Nissan to establish new sales company in Russia.

Nissan reports record operating profits of 825 billion yen and operating profit margin of 11.1 percent.

Nissan announces relocation of Global Headquarters to Yokohama in 2010.

Nissan unveils Six New Models for Japan.

Nissan launches the all-new Frontier, the most powerful V6 truck in its class, as well as a new mid-sized Pathfinder with added third-row seating and a second-generation Xterra. (Claim based on six models under 8500 GVWR starting below $45,000 in Ward’s Lg. Pickup Segment.)

Infiniti launches full luxury lineup in Taiwan. Nissan India subsidiary begins operations. Nissan establishes new sales company in Ukraine.

Infiniti to launch across Europe in 2008.

Nissan reaches 100 millionth production milestone.