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Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., which formerly marketed vehicles under the Datsun brand name, is a Japanese automobile manufacturer. The company's main offices are located 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.
The company marketed vehicles under the Nissan and Datsun brand names until 1983, when the Datsun brand name was dropped. 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, the French manufacturer Renault bought a controlling share 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 and by Briton Lewis Booth and Mitsubishi was run by a German, Rolf Eckrodt).
Under Ghosn's "Nissan Revival Plan" (NRP), 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. In 2001, the company initiated Nissan 180, capitalizing on the success of the NRP. 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 VG and VQ V6 engines appearing on "Ward's 10 Best Engines" for 12 straight years - every year since the award's inception.
In 1914, the Kwaishinsha Motorcar Works, 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
- Rokuro Aoyama
- Meitaro Takeuchi
The Works was renamed to Kwaishinsha Motorcar Co. in 1918, and again, in 1925, to DAT Motorcar Co.
The next year, the Tokyo-based company merged with the Osaka-based Jitsuyo Jidosha Co., Ltd. (established 1919) as DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co. Ltd. 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" in Japanese, hence the name "Datsun".
In 1933, the company name was Nipponized to Jidosha-Seizo Co. Ltd. and moved to Yokohama. In 1934, Jidosha-Seizo merged with a fellow Japanese automanufacturer named Nihon Sangyo Co. Ltd. ("Japan Industry Co. Ltd.") who was popularly known as "Ni-San."
The company became Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. 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.
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. After the Nissan introduced its own models in the 1950s, they continued to develop their own engine designs past what the Austin's A- and B-family designs offered. In 1967 introduced its new highly advanced four cylinder overhead cam (OHC) Nissan L engine, which while similar to Mercedes-Benz OHC designs was a totally new engine designed by Nissan. This engine powered the new Datsun 510, which gained Nissan respect in the worldwide sedan market. Then, in 1970 Nissan introduced the 240Z sports car which used a six-cylinder variation of the L series engine. The 240Z was an immediate sensation and lifted Nissan to world class status in the automobile market.
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 - however, "Prince" is still used in names of certain Nissan dealers in Japan. 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 as the subsidiary Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd. The UK TV Programme "Top Gear" stated that more cars were manufactured at Nissan's factory in Sunderland per year, than in the whole of Italy.
However, financial difficulties (approaching billions) in Australia in the late 1980s caused Nissan to cease production there. Due to the "Button Plan" the Australian operation was unique as the locally made products were rebadged and sold as different vehicles - these vehicles were the Ford Corsair (Nissan Pintara) and the Holden Astra (Nissan Pulsar). An imported model was also rebadged as the Ford Maverick (Nissan Patrol).
Nissan also produces cars at its factory near Pretoria, South Africa.
The company's head office is now in Tokyo but will move back to Yokohama in 2008. Nissan North America will relocate its headquarters from Gardena, California to Franklin, Tennessee in 2006.
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 Fairlady 1500, 1600 and 2000 Roadsters, the Nissan Z-Car, an affordable sports car originally introduced in 1969; and the Skyline GT-R, a powerful all-wheel-drive sports coupe.
In 1985, Nissan created a tuning division, NISMO, for competition and performance development of such cars.
Until 1982, Nissan automobiles in most export markets were sold under the Datsun brand. Since 1989, Nissan has sold its luxury models in North America under the Infiniti brand.
Nissan also sells a small range of keicars, mainly as a joint venture with other Japanese manufacturers like Suzuki or Mitsubishi. Nissan does not develop these cars. Nissan also has shared model development of Japan domestic cars with other manufacturers, particularly Mazda, Subaru, Suzuki and Isuzu.
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 DDI and Japan Telecom (both now merged into KDDI Corporation) in 1999. Nissan also owns Nissan Marine, a joint venture with Marubeni Corporation that produces motors for boats and other maritime equipment.
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