The Early Days
Nissan has demonstrated a commitment to innovation since the company’s founding in 1933. Not only are Datsuns the first mass-produced Japanese vehicles, their unique, automotive style makes a major impact on the U.S. market when Datsun sedans and compact pickups are first imported in the late ’50s.
The first Datsun is built.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., is established in Japan.
The Datsun Type 15 is the first mass-produced Japanese vehicle. Other Type 15 models include a mini-pickup and delivery van.
The first Datsun sedan arrives in the United States. The strong, heavy 1200 Sedan packs a 48-hp 1200-cc engine encased in thick body panels.
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.
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 U.S.A. (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 (soon replaced by an 85-hp version).
Focused on American driving needs, the Bluebird is the first Datsun with a full synchronized 3-speed transmission. It also sports classic two-tone paint, wide whitewalls and optional bucket seats. Off the road, Nissan’s first utility vehicle, The Patrol, makes its debut, with TV hero Roy Rogers as its spokesman. Pitched as the world’s most powerful, most advanced 4-wheel drive, the Patrol’s brawny 145-hp 4000-cc 6-cylinder engine develops enough torque ‘to climb trees.’
The first Japanese-owned production facility in North America, Nissan Mexicana (NMEX) manufactures its first vehicle.
The Datsun most-desired by collectors, the 2000 Roadster, is also the first Japanese production sports car to come with a 5-speed. That, plus its robust 150-hp engine, makes 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.
Nissan launches the first car styled for the U.S. market, the Datsun 510 sedan.
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 twenty-five years to sell 500,000 units; the Z does it in fewer than ten.
In the ’70s, Nissan continues to gain in popularity, with annual U.S. sales surpassing a quarter of a million cars. Nissan also begins to display unrivaled racing skills, with the Datsun 510 winning a number of championship races. Meantime, the civilian 510 provides the verve of a sports car to the general driving population, a goal Nissan achieves to this day through the Maxima and Sentra SE-R.
Annual sales in the United States pass the quarter million mark. Nissan also establishes itself on the racetrack: the BRE 510 wins the SCCA 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 SCCA club racing.
The civilian 510 introduces a new concept: a 4-door sports sedan. This good-looking, 5-passenger family car is fun to drive, economical, and sells over 300,000 sedans and wagons. As a result, race-bred sportiness remains very much part of Nissan today.
The one-millionth Datsun vehicle is sold in America.
Datsun becomes the top U.S. vehicle importer.
Nissan expands the idea of how much work a truck can do by introducing the King Cab, the first extended cab pickup.
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 SUV) is the ‘out there’ Gobi Truck concept. Developed in the late 1980s, it is a direct extension of the very first Datsun truck.
In the ’80s, 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.
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.
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, Tennessee.
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 miles per hour.
It’s a year of remarkable milestones: Nissan launches the Infiniti line of luxury vehicles. NMMC produces its one-millionth vehicle. And Nissan begins the Summer Institute for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Nissan demonstrates its agility in the ’90s – retaining the Nissan heritage, while moving in new directions. The company remains committed to long-standing quality and service in the automotive development, while also receiving numerous corporate and environmental awards.
Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) is established in Torrance, California, to oversee all Nissan operations in North America.
Nissan unveils a $490 million, 1.7 million-square-foot expansion of the Smyrna, Tennessee plant. It builds an $80 million Research and Development Technical Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. And on the environmental front, Nissan lends its Alternative Fuel Vehicle to a California testing program, unveils the Future Electric Vehicle concept car, and receives the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
As the Sentra surpasses two million sold in the U.S., the first Nissan mid-sized sedan produced in the U.S. – the Altima – rolls off the assembly line in Tennessee. Nissan wins the IMSA GTS Manufacturers Championship, with David Loring winning the IMSA GTU Drivers Championship in a Nissan 240SX, and Steve Millen winning the IMSA GTS Drivers Championship in a Nissan 300ZX. Nissan also establishes the Nissan Foundation, with a five-year, $5 million endowment. Nissan Quest becomes the first Nissan vehicle jointly produced with a U.S. manufacturer, Ford Motor Company.
Nissan celebrates its first 10 years of manufacturing in the U.S. with authority. Altima becomes the best-selling new nameplate in the United States, while the Maxima surpasses one million sold.
Nissan introduces the all-new 200SX and fourth generation Sentra, both assembled in the award-winning Smyrna, Tennessee plant. Nissan was recognized as Most Distinguished Partner by the Los Angeles Urban League in 1995.
After more than 26 years, the Z car was retired. In 1999, Nissan announced an all new Z car will be built for release in 2002. Nissan served as a corporate sponsor of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, specifically the Official Import Vehicle of Choice for Truck, Sport Utility, and Minivan. NMMC is named the most productive plant in North America in ‘The Harbour Report’ for the third consecutive year. On a more creative front, Nissan’s ‘Toys’ commercial is named the best commercial of the year by Time and Rolling Stone magazines. The last 300ZX is imported into the U.S. inducted into the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Nissan was named Best of the Best by the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1997, Nissan received the Smithsonian Inaugural Corporate Leadership Award. The Nissan Foundation celebrates its fifth anniversary. NMMC names the most productive automotive plant in North America by Harbour and Associates for fourth year.
Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A. (NMC) and Nissan North America, Inc. (NNA) consolidated into one company Nissan North America, Inc., effective December 31, 1998.
March 26, 1999, Nissan and Renault sign a global partnership agreement allowing both companies to take advantage of their respective strengths and expertise. Nissan introduces the Frontier Crew Cab, the first compact truck with four real doors. The Xterra also launches a trend in ‘no-nonsense’ SUVs for outdoor enthusiasts. Frontier, Xterra, and Pathfinder are named official vehicles of the Los Angeles County lifeguards and become a hit on the TV series ‘Baywatch.’ Rhys Millen drives UPRD Nissan Skyline GT-R to victory in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb near Colorado Springs, Colorado, on July 4.
Nissan’s heritage highlights a company always eyeing the future and never satisfied with the status quo. Bold design. Innovative style. Inspiring performance. Original cars and trucks more than capable of taking you wherever you choose to go in life.
Now working with Renault of France, Nissan unveils the 2003 Z? Concept. Nissan Research and Development (R&D) divisions in the U.S. and Europe are renamed Nissan Technical Center North America, Inc. (NTCNA) and Nissan Technical Centre Europe Limited (NTCE), respectively. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., forms the North American Management Committee (NAMC), the key decision-making body for Nissan in North America, and the U.S. Management Committee. NNA announces the expansion of its Decherd powertrain facility and the vehicle production level at its Smyrna assembly plant, both in Tennessee. The expansions are part of Nissan’s moves to bring local production closer to local markets. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announces preliminary financial figures showing a consolidated operating profit of $1.26 billion for the first six months of fiscal year 2000-the best performance in a decade. Nissan selects a site in Canton, Miss. for a new $930 million assembly plant. The plant will produce a full-size pickup truck, a full-size sport utility vehicle, and the next generation Nissan minivan. Production set to begin in summer 2003.
Nissan unveils the 2002 Sentra SE-R, Frontier Crew Cab Long Bed, and a totally new Altima. Cumulative Nissan production surpasses 60 million vehicles to date. Nissan Design International, headquartered in San Diego, Calif., is renamed Nissan Design America (NDA). On behalf of its employees, affiliates, and dealers around the world, Nissan donated $1 million to the American Red Cross and the Twin Towers Fund during the first week following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Nissan also set up a company-wide employee gift program, which resulted in a donation of $105,052.54 from Nissan and its employees to support relief efforts after the tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C.
An icon of automotive soul, the legendary Nissan Z? is reborn–better than ever. The first 8,000 Z’s are pre-sold to customers who commit to buying without even a test drive. The Murano, an on-road adventure masterpiece is launched. Nissan introduces the Nissan Child Safety Seat Fit Guide, known as Snug Kids?, to assist Nissan and Infiniti customers in identifying the right child seat for their vehicle. The first program of its kind in the automotive industry, it is geared specifically toward car seat safety for children. Nissan Technical Center North America, Inc. (NTCNA) announces a $38.8 million expansion of its research and engineering facility northwest of Detroit to enhance the company’s worldwide vehicle development capabilities. Steve Lambert replaces Katsumi Ishii as president of Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC).
Among the many accolades for the 350Z, Nissan is awarded the 2003 Motorweek Driver’s Choice Award, and the Altima receives the 2002 North American Car of the Year Award. Nissan’s 2004 product lineup is the most complete and exciting lineup ever offered from Nissan. It includes Nissan’s first entrance in the full-size truck and SUV markets with the all-new Titan pickup and Armada sport utility vehicle (SUV). The top was taken off the Z? with the 350Z Roadster, the Quest minivan makes its return to the lineup with a slew of innovative features and an advanced design, Nissan’s flagship Maxima is completely new and reenergized, and the Sentra and Sentra SE-R receive a fresh new fascia design.
Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC) relocated to its new 268,000 square foot customer service center in Irving, Texas, and is part of a significant Nissan expansion program in North America.
For a record tenth year in a row, Nissan’s versatile VQ V6 engine has been named to the annual ‘Ward’s Ten Best Engines’ award list by Ward’s Communications, Inc.
Nissan en Espa?ol, a new Spanish language website tailored to the online Hispanic community is launched.
Nissan Korea, Ltd. is established in February and plans to introduce five Infiniti models to the market starting in mid-2005. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., announced record operating profits of $7.29 billion for fiscal year 2003.
The 2005 Pathfinder and Frontier make their show car appearances at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The re-designed 2005 Altima is launched in February. In April, the all-new, second generation 2005 Xterra made its world debut at the New York International Auto Show. And the first ever Altima SE-R model is to be released later this year.
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