Historically, Nissan has enjoyed a long and treasured relationship with people living in Australia. In 1934, when Datsun Phaetons were sold locally, the importation of the early Japanese Marque, Datsun (later called Nissan), became well established. The years that followed were years that developed Nissan into what it is today; a reliable and trustworthy make that offers excellent engineering, whether it’s for the highly capable tried and true off-road vehicles, or the practical family sedans and wagons or the exceptionally quick sports cars that offer great performance and handling.
The four wheel drive line-up is legendary in the Australian outback. The Patrol is Nissan’s king of the rough stuff that has offered many an outback traveler dependable all terrain performance. And let’s not forget the 1600SSS, Skyline GTR, 180SX, 200SX and 350 Z, and other rubber burning legends that have captured the heart of the Aussie enthusiast for decades.
Nissan arrived on the scene a long way back in the year of 1911. The Kaishinsha Jidosha Kojo company was founded by an American trained engineer by the name of Masujiro Hashimoto. In March 1914, the company’s first proper car appeared and was given the name Type 31. It had a two litre motor and a body big enough to seat five people. Some of the important players who were involved in the production of the first car were remembered in the car’s name. The initials of their surnames, Den, Aoyama and Takeuchi, were used to give the name -DAT.
This car and the following bigger-engined models were all handmade and were therefore considered quite a luxury in Japan. Because Japan’s economic climate at the time was not flourishing, the demand for cars was actually quite small, which made for a difficult time financially for the company. However, what helped save the company were the subsidies being offered to manufacturers that could offer a vehicle suitable for military work. The DAT Company hastily converted its DAT model and made it available in a couple of different body styles.
Shortly afterwards, a huge earthquake struck that severely damaged Japans infrastructure including both the road and rail network. Japan relied heavily on its railways so their destruction led to a huge rise in the demand for motor vehicles. In 1925, The Kwaishinsha Jidosha Company merged with the Jitsuyo Jidosha company to form the DAT Jidosha Seizo Company. Jitsuyo Jidosha was another motor industry pioneer in Japan that had started in 1919 and initially manufactured three wheeled vehicles.
After the 1925 merger, the new company based in Osaka persisted with the production of the successful Type 41, and a Jitsuyo Jidosha model, the Lila. The Type 10 was perhaps the first sporty “Nissan”. The car was named Datson, which literally meant “son of DAT” This name was changed to Datsun, because “son” sounded like the Japanese word for “ruin” or “loss”…which is not be the best name to give to a new car!
On the 1st of June 1934, the company again changed its name once again. This was to be the last name change for the company. The company joined forces with Nihon Sangyo, another automobile manufacturer, and the Nissan Motor Company was founded. The new Nissan and Datsun logo was made from a red circle symbolizing the rising sun and success on a blue background symbolising the sky and sincerity.
It was not till the arrival of the sixties before Datsun/Nissan really took off in Australia. Sir Lawrence Hartnett was the spearhead that secured distribution rights for Datsun vehicles in Australia. He was inspired by the Datsun 1200 model, which was shown at the 1960 Melbourne Motor Show, and this hustled him along to getting them imported into Australia. Nissan also reached an agreement to commence the local assembly of Bluebird models in 1966 at the Pressed Metal Corporation plant in Sydney.
The famous Datsun 1600SSS was launched in 1967 which really propelled Nissan to some spectacular sales successes at the dealers (thanks primarily to some fantastic rallying results on the international scene.). Local production topped 20,000 vehicles for the year and Nissan became the seventh-biggest name in the Australian market for the year. In 1972, Nissan opened a highly automated engine plant and vehicle assembly line at Clayton in Victoria as well as a Nissan’s new Australian headquarters in nearby Dandenong.
By 1984, Nissan had gained a reputation as a sports car company, particularly with the turbocharged 300ZX, Gazelle, Exa and Pulsar models. Other models gaining wide recognition in the mid eighties were the 6-cylinder Skyline and 4-cylinder Pintara. The stylish new Navara Ute was challenging for supremacy in the light commercial segment, and Nissan’s all-new Patrol 4WD line up boasted coil suspension all-round. The Patrol also collected numerous awards and sold very well.
The nineties saw the launch of the all-new GU model Patrol 4WD. Following its launch were many awards and accolades for the tough outback conqueror. The Nissan Patrol even challenged the previously dominant Toyota Land Cruiser for Australian market leadership in the full-size four wheel drive segment.
However, in the late nineties Nissan numbers were not selling well globally. Nissan was facing severe financial difficulties and so Nissan was forced to enter an alliance with Renault. Since this merger, a breath of fresh air has swept through Nissan. This has shown itself through the very crisp designs and very capable engines that have been brought forward into the production lines. Consumers have been captured by the freshness of the car designs and the reliability and build quality of Nissan’s products. Sales have taken a well deserved leap forward and have catapulted Nissan to record profits and a dramatic revitalization.
In Australia, Nissan has repeatedly proven its place as a popular fully-imported Japanese automotive brand that offers outstanding levels of quality, features and design that represent exceptional value. The future for Nissan is looking as bright as its rising-sun logo suggests.
Back to Car Reviews