When Nissan first came to North America in 1958, showcasing both a car and a truck at the 1959 Los Angeles Auto Show, those vehicles were called Datsuns. And they continued to be branded as such until 1983.
Indeed the company’s very existence on this continent was based on the Datsun brand. Products such as the Datsun 1600 Roadster, the Datsun 510 sedan, the now-legendary Datsun 240Z, and the original Datsun King Cab small pickup truck were largely responsible for establishing the popularity of Japanese cars, along with their reputation for performance and reliability, in North America.
In 1975, it was Datsun, not Toyota or Honda or Volkswagen, that was the top-selling import brand in the United States.
Then, in the fall of 1981, the company announced that the Datsun brand name would be changed to Nissan, ostensibly in pursuit of a global marketing strategy. It was a slow process that created a lot of confusion in the marketplace and wasn’t completed until 1986 – at great expense.
In 2012, the company resurrected the Datsun brand, but only for some basic entry-level models sold in developing markets such as Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, India, and Russia.
Now, according to an article in Automotive News Europe, Nissan is planning to phase out the Datsun brand once again, in response to ongoing financial pressures exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The plans still need to be reviewed by Nissan’s board and may yet change, the article said.
It’s an ignoble end for a once proud and highly-respected brand.