- For other uses, see Nissan (disambiguation).
Nissan (日産) is a Japanese automobile maker. From 1932 to 1983, they also used the trademark Datsun. Their head offices are in the Ginza area of Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Nissan plans to move their headquarters to Yokohama, Kanagawa by 2010; the headquarters will start construction in 2007.
Nissan used to be Japan's second-largest car company, after Toyota, but it has dropped to third in size after Honda. Due to financial problems throughout the 1990s (to the point where most believe an American company in a similarly bad financial state would have ceased trading), the French company Renault took a large shareholding in the company and installed Carlos Ghosn as president, the first non-Japanese person to run a Japanese car company (Mazda was run by an American, Mark Fields—now run by Lewis Booth of England—and Mitsubishi was run by a German, Rolf Eckrodt). Under Ghosn's "Nissan Revival Plan", Nissan has rebounded in what many leading economists consider to be one of the most spectacular corporate turnarounds in history, catapulting Nissan to record profits and a dramatic revitalization of both its Nissan and Infiniti model line-ups. Ghosn has since been idolized as a national hero in Japan as a symbol of the strength of the currently ailing Japanese economy, with Ghosn and the Nissan revival story prominently featured in Japanese manga and popular culture. His achievements in revitalizing the Japanese company have been noted by Emperor Akihito, who awarded him the Japan Medal with Blue Ribbon in 2004.
Nissan is also noted for being one of the world's leading manufacturers of automobile engines, with its VQ 3.5 L V6 engine appearing on "Ward's 10 Best Engines" for 11 straight years - every year since the award's inception.
In 1914, the Kwaishinsha Motorcar Works (快進自動車工場, Kaishin Jidōsha Kōjō), established three years earlier, in Azabu-Hiroo District in Tokyo, built the first DAT. The new car's name being the 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 Works was renamed to Kwaishinsha Motorcar Co. in 1918, and again, in 1925, to DAT Motorcar Co.
Nissan Model 70 Phaeton, 1938
The next year, the Tokyo-based company merged with the Osaka-based Jitsuyo Jidosha Co., Ltd. (実用自動車製造株式会社, Jitsuyō Jidōsha Seikoku Kabushiki Gaisha) (established 1919) as DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (ダット自動車製造株式会社, Dat Jidosha Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha) in Osaka until 1932. In 1931, the first DATSON—meaning "Son of DAT"—was produced. However, the last syllable was changed to "sun", because "son" also means "loss" (損) in Japanese.
In 1933, the company name was Nipponized to Jidosha-Seizo Co. Ltd. (自動車製造株式会社, "Automobile Manufacturing Co. Ltd.") and moved to Yokohama. The company became Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (日産自動車, Nissan Jidosha Kaisha) on June 1, 1934, and was founded by Yoshisuke Aikawa. For two years (1947 to 1948) the company was briefly called Nissan Heavy Industries Corp. (日産重工業).
Like Hino and Isuzu, but unlike Toyota, Nissan partnered with a European company to gain access to automobile and engine designs. Nissan chose Austin of the United Kingdom, which later became the British Motor Corporation. Nissan began building Austin 7s in 1930, though the legitimacy of their license is debated. The company soon began producing a variety of Austin-derived models like the original Austin A50-based Datsun 1000. These designs were apparently covered by a 1952-1960 license agreement between the companies. Even after the Nissan introduced its own models in the 1960s, its engines continued to be derived from Austin's A- and B-family designs.
In 1966, Nissan merged with the Prince Motor Company, bringing into its range more upmarket cars, including the Skyline and Gloria. The Prince name was eventually abandoned, with successive Skylines and Glorias bearing the Nissan name. Nissan would introduce a new luxury brand for the US market in the late 1980s called Infiniti.
In the wake of the fuel crisis, Nissan became one of the world's largest exporters of automobiles and set up new factories in Mexico and Australia.
The firm established assembly operations in the United States in the early 1980s, with a plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. This facility at first built only trucks, but has since been expanded to produce several car lines. An engine plant in Decherd, Tennessee followed, and most recently a second assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi. A plant in Sunderland, UK was added in the mid-1980s.
However, financial difficulties in Australia in the late 1980s caused Nissan to cease production there.
The company's head office is now in Tokyo but will move back to Yokohama in 2010.
Nissan has produced an extensive range of mainstream cars and trucks, initially for domestic consumption but exported around the world since the 1950s. There was a major strike in 1953.
It also produced several memorable sports cars, including the Z-car, an affordable sports car originally introduced in 1969; and the Skyline GT-R, a hugely-powerful four-wheel-drive sports coupe that is regarded by many as Japan's Porsche 911 and that has unfortunately rarely been seen (except as a gray import) outside Japan. However, in Canada cars that are older than 15 years may be legally registered, and at this time many R32 generation skylines are owned and driven by Canadian citizens who have had them imported.
Nissan sells its luxury models in North America under the Infiniti brand.
Nissan has also had a number of ventures outside the automotive industry, most notably the Tu-Ka mobile phone service (est. 1994), which was sold to Japan Telecom in 1999.
Past and current models