Nissan's heritage can be traced back to 1911 with the formation of the Kwaishinsha Motorcar Works, three years after the company was started they produced the first DAT model. The DAT name was an acronym of the three partners family surnames - Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama and Meitaro Takeuchi - and they produced both cars and trucks, although car production was a lot lower than truck production. 1918 saw the company change its name to the Kwaishinsha Motorcar Company and another name change to the DAT Motorcar Company came about in 1925, the following year, with low sales volumes in trucks DAT merged with Japans second largest truck manufacturer to form the DAT Automobile Manufacturing Company.
1931 saw the production of a new small car, the Datson, literally translated as Son of DAT, two years later the name was changed to Datsun, as son in Japanese can also mean loss and so the Datsun brand was born. Although there has never actually been a Datsun company, it has however been a name under which the DAT Automobile Manufacturing Company and later Nissan has sold and marketed its vehicles.
1928 had seen the founding of a holding company by Yoshisuke Aikawa called Nippon Sangyo (Nippon Industries), this company had assets that included Tobata Casting, Hitachi and other foundries and auto parts manufacturers, although it did not manufacture vehicles at the time. Over the next few years, traders on the Tokyo stock market abbreviated Nippon Sangyo to Nissan. Late in 1931 Aikawa purchased shares in the DAT Automobile Manufacturing Company and in 1933 merged it with Tobata Castings automobile parts division and Nissan's vehicle manufacturing began under the name of the Nissan Motor Company.
In 1934 after falling out with some of the shareholders of the new company, Aikawa bought out the shareholders of Tobata Castings using money from Nippon Industries and the company effectively became owned by Nippon Sangyo and Hitachi, over the next decade the company concentrated on manufacturing planes, lorries and engines for the Japanese military.
Following the end of World War II, over half of the Nissan plant at Yokohama was requisitioned by the allies, something that would stay in place for around ten years. Production of trucks began immediately following the conclusion of the war, with the production of Datsun cars being recommenced in 1947. However, following the dissolution of the Japan Motor Vehicle Distribution Company, Nissan found that it had lost many of its sales outlets to Toyota. This, and serious problems between the management and the labour force led in 1952 to a technical tie-up between Nissan and the UK manufacturer Austin. This agreement began with Nissan assembling and marketing 2000 Austin cars a year in Japan with the proviso that within three years Nissan would source the parts locally, a target that Nissan achieved. This contract also gave Nissan access to Austin's patents, which the company used to develop engines for its Datsun range and by 1955, Nissan was producing Austin A50's, completely sourced and built in Japan.
Through the sixties, Nissan continued to develop their engine technology and encouraged Austin to further develop their own designs, with the culmination in 1970 resulting in the launch of the Datsun 240Z, a sports coupe that proved to be a huge success around the world and effectively launched Nissan to new major markets, especially in the US where the 240Z was seen as a low priced competitor to the likes of Porsche and Jaguar. Major success followed with Nissan becoming one of the largest car exporters in the world.
With the Iranian oil crisis in 1973, Nissan made a decision to concentrate on its economy line of cars, albeit with a definite sporty flavour and expanded their manufacturing plants to cover South East Asia, South America and South Africa. With the formation of the European Union, Nissan also came to the conclusion that to avoid paying expensive export tariffs, they needed to open a manufacturing plant within Europe's borders and after much consideration, Sunderland in the UK was chosen, Completed in 1986 the plant was named as the subsidiary Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, production began and over the years the plant has gone on to become the most productive car plant in the whole of Europe.
1999 saw Nissan enter an alliance with Renault, Renault appointed its own Chief Operating Officer, Carlos Ghosn to oversee the running of Nissan and under his stewardship, Nissan has seen a remarkable turnaround in its fortunes, the first model the Primera shared its platform with the Renault Laguna and subsequent models such as the Note and the Micra has the same Mechanicals as the Renault Clio.
Other models have followed that include the Qashqai, the Murano and the 350Z, With the Sunderland plant benefitting by producing the Qashqai, the Note and the Micra, a great British success story, albeit in the production of Japanese cars.
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