The Nissan Motor Company is usually referred to as Nissan. It’s a Japanese automobile manufacturer headquartered in Yokohama. They sell their vehicles through the Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti brands. They also offer their own performance tuning equipment through the Nismo brand.
In 2013, the brand was the sixth largest automaker in the entire world. They followed Toyota, GM, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Ford. The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the fourth largest automaker in the world. Nissan is also the leading Japanese brand in Russia, Mexico, and China.
As of 2016, Nissan was the largest electric vehicle (EV) automaker in the world. They made it to the top with their Nissan Leaf with more than 300,000 sold as of early 2018.
A Overview Nissan History
In the Beginning
Masujiro Hashimoto was the founder of Kaishinskha Motor Car Works in 1911. This company was Japan’s first car manufacturer at the time. Then, in 1914, they produced their first car, referred to as DAT. The name was an acronym of the investors’ surnames:
In 1918, they renamed the company to Kaishinsha Motorcar Co. Then, in 1925, it was renamed again to DAT Motorcar Co. They built trucks as well as Datsun cars and the DAT. Most of the sales were trucks, because there wasn’t a large demand for cars at the time. The military market had a need for DAT trucks and was one of the most significant sources of revenue at the time.
During World War I, commercial operations were halted while the company supplied needs for the war. Then, in 1926, DAT Motors and Jitsuyo Jidosha Co merged to become DAT Jidosha Seizo Co Automobile Manufacturing Co. For two years, from 1923 through 1925, the company made trucks and light cars through the name Lila.
DAT designed a smaller car in 1931, named Datsun Type 11. Then, in 1933, the Nissan Group took control of DAT motors. Prior to this, the company only controlled auto parts businesses and foundries. This was their first try at auto manufacturing.
Nissan Motors Organized
The shareholders of the company were not thrilled about automobiles in Japan. This was when all Tobata Casting shareholders were bought out by Aikawa. Then, in 1934, Nissan Motor became solely owned by Hitachi and Nihon Sangyo.
The Yokohama plant finished construction in 1935 and 44 Datsun vehicles shipped to South America, Central America, and Asia. In 1935, the Yokohama plant incorporated the first integrated assembly system. At this location, they built airplanes, engines, and trucks for the Imperial Japanese Army. Only a few years later, in 1937, the headquarters moved to Hsinking and changed their name to Manchuria Heavy Industries Developing Co.
Not long after, in 1944, the offices moved again to Nihonbashi, Tokyo and changed their name to Nissan Heavy Industries, Ltd. This remained the name for only five more years.
Nissan Comes to America
William R. Gorham, an American engineer, went to work for DAT as the chief designer. He carried out the company’s plan to use some of America’s cutting-edge technology. At the time, most of the processes and machinery were from the U.S. They also began assembling larger vehicles in 1937 under the Nissan brand. The Graham-Page Company supplied a majority of the plant facilities and plans to the company. They also used a Graham license when manufacturing trucks, buses, and passenger cars.
They built the Datsun Austin 7 which became the company’s great success internationally. In 1952, 2,000 Austins were imported in partially assembled condition to sell in Japan. Nissan continued to market and produce Austins for another seven years. By 1955, the Austin A50 was in Japan. It featured a 1489 cc engine and was built entirely by Nissan. From 1953 through 1959, they produced 20,855 Austin vehicles.
Then, in 1967, the company released a highly advanced four-cylinder engine. The Nissan L overhead cam motor was similar to Mercedes-Benz OHC designs. The new Datsun 510 used the engine and gained respect for the company in the sedan market worldwide. Two years later, in 1969, they unveiled the Datsun 240Z. This sports car had a six-cylinder design based on the L-series motor. It was an immediate success.
Prince Motor Merger
Nissan and the Prince Motor Company merged into one in 1966. This brought the Gloria and Skyline into their list of vehicles. Eventually, the Prince name stopped being used and these cars carried Nissan’s name instead. The Japanese Nissan dealers carried the Prince name until 1999. Then, it was replaced by Red Stage, which lasted through 2007. The Skyline went on to become the Infiniti G Series.
Increase in Production
During the oil crisis of 1973, consumers began looking for economy cars with better fuel mileage. To accommodate this demand, Nissan built factories in Mexico to produce the Nissan Sunny. This was the first assembly plant in North America because Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation USA wasn’t created until 1980.
The first American plant was Smyrna which only built trucks at the time like the Hardbody and 720. Later, it went on to produce the Maxima, Altima, Infiniti QX60, Pathfinder, Rogue plus the all-electric LEAF car. They went on to create a new engine plant located in Tennessee and then another assembly plant in Mississippi.
There were also many delivery costs and export tariffs placed on vehicles sent to European customers. As a result, Nissan thought about creating a new plant for Europe. They attempted to convert their Greek plant but because of issues with the Government that didn’t happen. In fact, the plant was closed during the process. Eventually, they picked Sunderland in England as their location. It’s an area near many major ports, so the plant was built in 1986. By just 2007, they were already producing about 400,000 vehicles each year.
In recent years, Nissan increased their sales relationships with rental car companies. In 2016, their rental sales skyrocketed 37%. Plus, in 2017, they were the only automaker that boosted their rental sales. The three Detroit-based companies actually scaled back their deliveries. This was odd considering rental companies used to be one of the largest customers to our domestic auto manufacturers.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
Nissan’s first electric vehicle to run on battery was its Altra. This was shown off in 1997 at the Los Angeles International Show. Then, in 2009, they released the EV-11 prototype. It was based upon the Versa and featured an all-electric powertrain which replaced the typical gasoline engine.
The LEAF was introduced in 2010. This was the first mass-market model to be launched globally. Only a few years later, in 2014, the Leaf became the top-selling all-electric vehicle ever. Early in the year, sales reached 100,000 units which made up of 45% of the market share across the globe. By the end of 2015, they passed the 200,000 mark.
The company saw so much success with the Leaf; they opted to create another all-electric vehicle. That’s how the e-NV200 was born in 2013. It was a commercial van that was inspired by the Leaf design.
In the summer of 2016, their electric vehicles made it to 48 of the world markets. By the end of 2016, their global sales of electric vehicles surpassed 275,000 units.
Nissan Safety and Crash Ratings
When looking at the safety of Nissan vehicles, it’s essential to first look at the IIHS reports. These are the best way to gauge safety regarding roof strength, head restraints and crash testing. To earn the highly respected “Top Safety Pick+” rating, a vehicle needs to reach certain criteria. First, it must achieve the ‘Good’ rating for each of the five crash categories. Then, it needs to rank either ‘Advanced’ or ‘Superior’ for front crash prevention.
Only then can these vehicles go on to be listed as the safest on the road. In 2016, four Nissan vehicles earned this coveted achievement. They were the Altima, Maxima, Murano, and Sentra.
Surprisingly, in 2018, the Nissan LEAF also scored a 5-star safety rating from the European New Car Assessment Programme.
Nissan Safety Equipment
Passive safety measures inside of Nissan vehicles include an advanced airbag system and LATCH system for children. In addition, six models of the 2018 production include Automatic Emergency Braking standard. That equaled out to about one million vehicles in total.
They’ve also offered numerous smart technologies as well. This includes Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The Intelligent Rear View Mirror turns your mirror into a camera screen that offers superior viewing during the day or at night. There’s also an available Intelligent Around View Monitor. This system utilizes four cameras which provides a composite 360-degree view. The driver chooses from close-up shots around the vehicle and can even do a split-camera picture.
Other safety features include Intelligent Cruise Control, Intelligent Driver Alertness, and Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The company’s Intelligent Back-Up Intervention detects approaching and crossing vehicles plus large objects behind the vehicle. Then, it alerts the driver with audio and visual cues. If needed, it also engages the brakes to avoid a collision.
Some of the standard technologies include Vehicle Dynamic Control, Traction Control, Anti-Lock Braking System, and Electronic Brake Force Distribution. Vehicles also come standard with Brake Assist and Intelligent Auto Headlights.
Nissan Safety Recalls
Over the past few years, there have been some important safety recalls from the Nissan Company. In May 2016, almost four million cars were recalled. The issue stemmed from passenger airbags and seat belts failing during a crash. Nissan stated that the cars might have a problem with the sensor which detects if the front seat is occupied. It also malfunctioned to determine if that passenger is a child or adult. Because of this, the sensors were turning off the airbag assuming that a passenger was a child.
Later in 2016, about 134,000 Maximas and Muranos were recalled due to potential fire hazards. Models equipped with the Intelligent Cruise Control had a feature that utilized the anti-lock brake actuator pump. This was allowing brake fluid to leak onto another internal electrical circuit board which then resulted in underhood fires. While no deaths were reports, several vehicles started on fire and had significant damage.
In 2017, over 340,000 2015-2017 Nissan Altimas were recalled. The issue related to a rear door latch that was routed improperly. Because of this, passengers that lowered a rear window might’ve caused the door to open.
Also in 2017, all 1.2 million passenger cars sold in Japan during a three year period were also recalled. That’s because it was discovered that final vehicle inspections were never performed by authorized techs.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
In 2014, Consumer Reports stated that many Nissan owners were unhappy with their purchases. They actually placed them third from last in overall brand rankings at the time. Nissan landed just above Daimler’s Smart and Mitsubishi.
Of the 22 Infiniti and Nissan models that were part of the survey, 14 of them ranked either in last or second-to-last place in their categories. Just two years previously, only three of the vehicles rated this poorly. Many people were unhappy with the redesigns, claiming they no longer performed well.
If you check Consumer Affairs, you’ll also notice that the company currently holds less than a 1.5-star rating. Reading through these reviews shows the same things – unhappiness over the performance and designs of newer models.
On top of that, there are no Nissan vehicles listed for the 2018 J.D. Power Dependability Awards. With that said, their Vehicle Dependability Study indicates that Nissan earned four out of five points for overall dependability. The breakdown consists of three for powertrain dependability, three for body and interior dependability, and four for the feature and accessory dependability.
Here are the awards that Nissan won for 2017 and 2018.
- Voted Best Environmental Performance Brand from the Automotive Science Group.
- Rogue earned 2017 Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy Award.
- Armada won SUV of the Year in the Popular Mechanics magazine’s Automotive Excellence Awards.
- Murano earned Best 2-Row SUV for the Money by U.S News and World Report.
- Maxima received Best Resale Value Award by KBB.
- Rogue named Family Car of the Year by Cars.com.
- GT-R was ranked in the Autobytel Buyer’s Choice Awards.
- Versa Note also made it to in the Autobytel Buyer’s Choice Awards.
- Titan was listed as the TRUCK TREND’s Pickup Truck of the Year.
- Titan won Full-size Truck of Texas from the Texas Auto Writers Association.
- Rogue won Compact SUV of Texas from the Texas Auto Writers Association.
- TITAN King Cab won Commercial Vehicle of Texas and Best Value from the Texas Auto Writers Association.
- Nissan ProPILOT Assist1 won “Best Technology” award from Texas from the Texas Auto Writers Association.
- Nissan LEAF won Lowest Cost to Own Award from KBB.
- The brand also won 2018 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for the seventh year in a row.
- Nissan LEAF also took home the 2018 World Green Car label from the World Car Awards.
Nissan and Other Automakers
Throughout the years, Nissan’s been known to work with a variety of other automakers. Here’s the history of the various relationships.
From 1983 through 1987, Alfa Romeo and Nissan built the Arna. This helped Alfa Romeo get a foot in the family hatchback market and enabled Nissan to develop their European standing. Once Fiat took over Alfa Romeo, the cooperation between the two companies ended.
In India, a partnership exists between Ashok Leyland and Nissan. They produce light commercial vehicles together.
In 2003, Dongfeng Motor and Nissan formed the Dongfeng Motor Co. It’s known as the first joint venture in China’s automotive industry that features passenger vehicles, light commercial automobiles, trucks, and buses.
During the years 1989 through 1992, Ford Australia and Nissan Australia shared some models. This government-backed rationalization scheme is referred to as the Button Plan. Under this plan, the Nissan Pintara sold as a Ford Corsair. In exchange, the Ford Falcon sold as a Nissan Ute. There was also a Nissan Patrol that sold as Ford Maverick from 1988 through 1994.
From 1993 through 2002, Nissan North America worked with Ford and built the Nissan Quest plus the Mercury Villager. Both of these minivans were identical when sitting side by side except for a few cosmetic differences.
Ford Europe and Nissan also produced the Nissan Terrano II with the Ford Maverick. This SUV was popular in the European market and Australasia.
Nissan and GM worked together in Europe to design the Nissan Primastar, a light commercial vehicle.
Also, in 2013, General Motors rebadged the NV 200 van as a Chevrolet City Express. GM Australia sold the Nissan Pulsar from 1984 through 1989 as a Holden Astra as well.
From 1996 through 2001, LDV sold the Serena (light commercial vehicle) as an LDV Cub. The Nissan version made it to market as a Vannette Cargo.
Together, the company created mini cars. These are produced at Mitsubishi’s Japanese plant. In 2016, Nissan spent $2.3 billion to acquire the controlling stake over Mitsubishi Motors.
From 1984 through 1990, the Volkswagen Santana was licensed through Nissan.
Nissan faced financial trouble in 1999. As a result, they allied with the French, Renault S.A. This alliance was the first to involve a French and Japanese car manufacturer.
Through the years, Renault increased holdings to 43.4% of the shares in Nissan, while only 15% of Renault’s shares belong to Nissan. The “Nissan Revival Plan” directed by CEO Ghosn, has been one of the most amazing corporate turnarounds ever to occur. It propelled the company to earn record profits plus revitalized an entire line-up of Infiniti and Nissan models.
In 2010, Daimler AG also exchanged 3.9% of their shares for 3.9% shares in both Renault and Nissan. With this triple cooperation, there’s an increase in sharing development costs and technology.
Then, in 2012, the Alliance started a joint venture with Alliance Rostec Auto BV, a Russian technology company. The goal was to become the controlling shareholder over their largest car company, Lada. This takeover completed in 2014 with the Renault-Nissan Alliance taking 67.1% stake over the company.
Together, the Alliance is the world’s fourth largest automobile manufacturer, selling one out of every ten cars in the world. Their 2013 sales were 8,266,098 units.
Snapshot of the Company
Nissan’s Japanese headquarters are located in Kanagawa. The company has 137,250 employees and the CEO is Hiroto Saikawa since 2017.
Nissan North America is based in Franklin, TN. There are three plants located in the United States. The plant in Smyrna, TN produces lithium-ion batteries and several vehicles. These include the Altima, Maxima, Nissan LEAF, Pathfinder, Rogue, and Infiniti QX60.
The plant in Decherd, TN is a joint venture between Renault, Nissan, and Daimler AG. This is where they collaborate to create 4-cylinder engines. They also produce engines, forgings, castings, and electric motors at this location.
At the Canton, MS plant, they create Titan (King Cab, Crew Cab), Altima, NV Passenger, NV Cargo, Frontier, and Murano.
The company also has headquarters and production plants in Mexico, Europe, Oceania, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
During 2016, Nissan’s sales were $83.7 billion. Also during this time, they increased their rental car company sales over 35% when compared with other automakers. While Nissan increased, the other companies reduced their fleet sales.
In 2017, they became the top seller for rental companies. They were 10% higher than General Motors. The top two models at the time were the Nissan Rogue and Nissan Altima.
Over the years, they’ve been criticized for their aggressive use of retailer incentive programs. They’ve also been chastised for offering additional discounts to consumers. This led to operating margins that have gone downhill. The higher percentage of fleet sales has also hit the values and overall brand in a negative way.
The Nissan text logo is simply the brand name written out in red capital letters. Then, the company created a logo that was circular with the brand through the middle. It features gradient shades of gray and silver. It was a chrome-colored theme that stood for modernism, sophistication, perfection and creativity.
They upgraded that same design to offer a steel-blue logo in 2013. It was unveiled during a press conference.
The company has been a part of many advertising campaigns that made a difference. They were a sponsor of the Los Angeles Open golf tournament starting 1987 through 2007. Then, in 2015, they earned the naming rights sponsorship of the Nissan Stadium. It’s the home Tennessee State University football and the Tennessee Titans. They also become a sponsor of the UEFA Champions League and Heisman Trophy.
Two of the most talked about Nissan ad campaigns occurred in 1997. First, Johnny Cash starred in an ad signing an amazing rendition of the “Laverne & Shirley” theme song. Another highlight was the home-wrecking adventure doll featured in a 300ZX. It won many awards for the best ad of the year, but also came with a lawsuit from the doll’s maker, Mattel.
The company has always placed an importance on racing. Even now, they continue their tradition through the NISMO division. It’s the abbreviation for Nissan Motorsport International Limited. It was launched in 1984, but has evolved throughout the years to become synonymous with high-performance parts and models.
Their vehicles have always been known for their extreme racing capability. In addition, they’ve featured state-of-the-art technology and designs. This has even led to other divisions such as the GT-R LM NISMO Race Car and the NISMO RC Electric Race Car.
Prior to NISMO, the company raced with some of the most elite cars around. In fact, the Nissan R380-II was one of the first to take the track in 1967. At the time, it set seven international speed records. It was powered by a 1.9-liter 6-cylinder engine and 217 horsepower.
Then came the R382 in 1969. It took both first and second place during the Japan GP. It featured a 5.9-liter V12 engine and 591 horsepower. In 1988, G. Brabham won the Driver’s Championship during the US IMSA GT Series by driving the Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo. This 2.9-liter V6 engine produced 641 horsepower.
With the 1990 R90P, the company proceeded to win three consecutive races during the All Japan Championship. This race car was powered by a 3.5-liter V8 engine and 788 horsepower. Not long after, in 1998, the R390 was entered into the Le Mans. Every vehicle that entered finished in the top 10. It featured a 3.5-liter V8 engine and 641 horsepower.
Even today, they continue to make appearances at various tracks around the world. The GT-R and 370Z show up at many amateur and professional races.
The Nissan Engine Museum is located inside the Yokohama auto plant in Japan. It’s an automobile engine museum that was built in 1934. In 2002, the building was deemed a historical building by the Japanese government.
Inside the museum, they feature the latest models of vehicles. There is also a memorial car on display. You’ll also find a total of 28 automobile engines and a full history of the auto plant’s equipment.
Also located in Japan is the Nissan Heritage Collection. It’s a private gallery of cars situated inside the engine manufacturing plant. There are a total of over 450 vehicles, starting with some from the 1930s. In addition, some competition cars, like the R390 Le Mans race car or the Fairlady are also on site. Overall, the focus of the museum is keeping Datsun, Nissan, and Prince vehicles safe. The museum offers curated collections by past Nissan career employees. To enter the museum, you must book your tour in advance.
Nissan Motors Acceptance Corportation
Nissan Finance, otherwise known as the Nissan Motors Acceptance Corporation (NMAC) is located in Dallas, Texas. They offer the standard line of services to customers including lease options and protection plans. Nissan Financial also has their own Visa credit card for consumers. The rewards system offers drivers with five points for every $1 spent at Nissan or on fuel. They also receive another three points for every $1 spent at restaurants. Finally, one point is earned for every dollar spent at any other location.
Aside from their regular incentives and offers, there are also several specialized programs set up. Their military program offers discounts and special savings to those who’ve served our country. All that is needed is a Military Program Certificate from the company.
They also offer a College Grad Program. To receive this, customers must print the College Grad Certificate and take it with them to the dealership.
The benefit to using ChooseNissan, the company’s financial website, is so you can decide which Nissan is right for you before heading to the dealer. The site allows you to customize your shopping experience. Not only do you get an in-depth look at the various models, but you research financing options as well. There are even localized search tools to make finding your dream car easy.
There are over 1,000 dealerships located in all 50 states throughout the country. Less than 40 of those dealerships wins the coveted Circle of Excellence Award from the company. This is given to showcase dealers that excel in multiple categories such as Customer Service Satisfaction, High Volume Sales, Top Sales, Overall Dealer Performance, plus Service and Parts.
There is also a Nissan Global Award. This is given to the top 50 dealerships across the globe and is based on the volume of sales. When looking for a reputable dealer in your area, it pays to find one that received one of these prestigious awards. Then, you know that you are working with a dealer that values your business and excels in customer service.
Back in 2013, there were some unhappy dealers that went public about the difficulties working with the company. They claimed that headquarters set unrealistic sales targets. The claims went on to state that dealers received letters of default or termination notices if they miss hard-to-reach objectives.
In 2016, the company was hailed as one of the top companies when it came to customer internet inquiries by Pied Piper. This mystery shopping evaluation showed that the dealerships were prompt to respond to inquiries made through the Internet.
According to the list of J.D. Power Dealers of Excellence, there is only one Nissan dealership in the United States to make the cut. Nissan of Cookeville is located in Tennessee.
5 Interesting Facts about Nissan
1 – The Nissan and Infiniti brands produce more than 60 models in every class. This is an astounding number when compared with other automakers.
2 – Nissan was first to utilize the Continuously Variable Transmission with fixed gear ratios. The CVT found its way into the gearbox of a Hyper CVT-V6 in 1997, before any other vehicle.
3 – From 1992 through 2003, the Design Center in Munich was responsible for the European market. In 2003, however, all production moved to London.
4 – The Pulsar GTI-R had a full-size umbrella hidden in the driver side door frame. This all-wheel-drive hatchback also featured 227 horsepower and was designed to be a racer.
5 – The company also built rocket engines. The Lambda 45-5 spacecraft features a Nissan engine. This spacecraft launched Japan’s first satellite in 1970. Through 2000, the company maintained a thriving aerospace division, but eventually it was sold. The satellite, however, lasted through 2003 until it burned up in the atmosphere.
Frequently Asked Questions
1 – Is Nissan Reliable? Overall, the brand produces reliable vehicles. While they don’t always exceed their rivals like Honda or Toyota, they do hold their own in dependability studies.
2 – Who Was the Nissan Founder? Nissan wasn’t founded by one person, but by a number of individuals. The most famous of these was Yoshisuke Aikawa, who laid the foundations for the modern Nissan company along with Masujiro Hashimoto, Rokuro Aoyama, Kenjiro Den, Meitaro Takeuchi, and William R. Gorham.
3 – How Much is a Nissan GT-R? Newer models start right around the $100,000 mark and go up depending which edition you purchase.
4 – Where are Nissans made? Vehicles are manufactured in one of six facilities located through Japan, Mexico, and the United States. High-performance vehicles such as the 370Z and GTR come from the Tochigi facility where there highly skilled technicians work onsite. Entry-level vehicles and the 350Z coupe come from the Oppama facility. The other Japanese plant in Kyushu produces Murano and Rogue crossover SUVs. The North American facilities in Smyrna or Canton produce the majority of the company’s sedans or SUVs. They also handle the truck production and Quest minivan. The only vehicle produced at the Mexican plant is the Sentra.
5 – Is Nissan Japanese? Yes. The motor company is a multinational manufacturer of automobiles based in Yokohama, Japan.
6 – What is NISMO? NISMO stands for Nissan Motorsports International Limited. Basically, it’s the company’s motorsports division. The branch launched in 1984 as a way to showcase the company’s engineering feats on the track. It is still synonymous with motorsports as well as high-performance models and parts. They’ve even experimented with things such as the GT-R LM NISMO Race Car and the NISMO RC Electric Race Car.