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March 26th Weekly Open Thread: The Return of Datsun

Nissan recently announced that it was resurrecting the old Datsun nameplate after 20-some years in the dustbin of history. See this Reuter's story, for example. As of now, they're only planning on using the Datsun name for low-cost vehicles in some non-US markets such as India and Russia.

I remember at the time they dumped the Datsun name that there was a decent amount of controversy over the decision (they were selling both "Nissan" and "Datsun" branded vehicles). One can see the DatsunNissanpractical side of it from Nissan's point of view: They could consolidate advertising materials across the entire brand and across borders where one or the other was being sold, even though changing a lot of Datsun-related paraphernalia (such as dealership signs) was no doubt a significant cost. OTOH, quite a few pundits thought it was a needless change that got them away from a brand name that was well-respected. The widely-acclaimed 240Z was, of course, a "Datsun". Frankly, I'm not sure what sort of reputation "Datsun" had back in the day, whether it was on par with Toyota and Honda in terms of quality, reliability, etc., although I think they may have been, overall, a bit goofier looking.

So, here is the space to voice your opinion: Should they leave Datsun where it lies? Bring it back to the US, too, maybe like Toyota/Lexus or Honda/Acura (admittedly, they already have Infiniti)? Or is "Datsun" in the US forever linked to "reliable and efficient but still small and goofy"? It is yours to decide.

As always, feel free to discuss whatever y'all want as well.

Photo is courtesy of our own Chuck Lynch.


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I recall trying to figure out, as a young lad, why Datsun trucks were being advertised as "from Nissan". And a short time later, Nissan ditched the Datsun name, ending the confusion. I think it was a smart move, as the Nissan brand was becoming stronger worldwide, and it also gave them an opportunity to distance themselves from some questionable styling decisions. Of course, in the years since, they've simply made new questionable styling decisions (WTH is up with the back end of the Cube?) but I think they can get away with some of it on the strength of their name. As in, yes, our new line of work trucks is even odder looking than the Sprinter, but we blew our wad on the GT-R so just decide which of our fine cars you want and sign on the dotted line, thanks. Not that I would, mind you, but I would probably see if I could swing the payment on a used G37 or G35 coupe with a Nissan badge on the front and Skyline written across the back...

I mean, really, who would want to buy a "Datsun Skyline"?

An apocryphal story has the Nissan executives calling in the top members of the car company's German advertising agency, telling them "We need a new name for Nisssan's cars to be sold in India and Russia."

The German ad agency's president replied, "Ja, ve can come up with a name. How soon do you need it?"

The Nissan executive leader said, "Very soon - within ten minutes!"

Flabbergasted, the German replied, "Dot soon?"

"Thank you," the Nissan leader echoed. "Datsun it is, then."

Eric, the trucks' "Product of Nissan" was both a link to the company's real name and, in the early 80s, the trucks had large NISSAN logos on the tailgates, but had a smaller "DATSUN" decal in the corner. Also, the Maxima had "Datsun" on them. The changeover was eased by both names being on the vehicles at the same time.

I worked at Nissan during this name changeover and was in the thick of it. The first thing we had to do as Americans was to properly learn how to pronounce "Nissan" LOL.

"I mean, really, who would want to buy a "Datsun Skyline"?"

I would. As long as it's priced right. Seeing that the GT-R has become its own model, I imagine the Datsun Skyline to be the more enthusiast-friendly version of a G37 sedan or coupe (those are Skylines in Japan), with RWD and a true manual trans. Maybe even a steering wheel that you can actually get some feedback. It may not be as light or "cheap" as the incoming Scion FR-S or as hardcore as the 370Z, but with some more horsepower to compensate.

Though it may not happen. Skylines started out as Prince (as in the Prince Skyline) before Prince merged with Nissan. Another brand-name change for such an illustrious platform may not do it any good.
Then again, car companies have an uncanny ability to bastardize great names/lineups (*glares over at the more-door Dodge Charger*).

Eh... no opinion, really. Datsun was always a bit of an enigma way back when in that it proved it could design something as gorgeous as the original 240Z (even the later 260/280s were still good looking cars), then turn around and design something as godawful ugly as the 1976-78 F-10 (anyone here remember those?). Oh, and how about the F-10 "wagon" model with the available woodgrain paneling... ugh.

Actually, the Nissan of today isn't really all that different. Consider the current 370Z and Maxima - 2 very good looking designs, in my opinion. On the other hand, there's the Juke... cross between "Joke" and "Puke" (coincidence? Maybe, maybe not...) Guess the powers-that-be at Nissan strived to make a car even uglier than their own F-10 was in the 70s (they succeeded). Gives creedence to the saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

I bought a used 1985 Sentra and if I remember correctly, it had a "from Nissan" sticker on back. I got it from a sweet Yankee lady who moved to Mississippi and wanted to trade it in on a new car. She couldn't understand why the dealers would only give her 750 bucks for it. I looked at it and said, " 'Retha, this car doesn't have air conditioning." She wanted to know what difference that made; at that point, she hadn't gone through a Mississippi summer! I worked nights so I bought it and got an honest 50 mpg for two years until it blew a head gasket. Only four door, two passenger vehicle I ever owned.

Ah, whats in a name? Depends on how you say it.Americans generally pronounce Nissan as "Niece-On" & Datsun as "Dots-Sun". The British mangle these with much harsher A's rhyming Nissan with "piss ant". Datsun 240z becomes the ungainly "Dads-Son-Too-For-Not-Zed" . As a kid I thought Datsun was a clever explanation of a Japanese flag.Sort of like naming an American company Stars n stripes.

I always heard the Japanese pronounce it "knee-sahn."

Well, Top Gear pronounces Hyundai "Hi-YOON-dai" which causes my household no end of amusement.

They also pronounce "glacier" as "glass-she-er." Yes, their accents on certain words are quite amusing.

My understanding is that "Hi-YOON-dai" is the correct Korean pronounciation.

....and there's that old story that Mitsubishi designers in Japan wanted their new car to be called the Stallion but because of their supposed mispronunciation it became the Starion

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