of Nissan Pickups
40 years ago, a small Japanese automobile manufacturer imported
a new model to the United States. The Datsun Pickup was not just
a new vehicle, it represented an entirely new concept and market
- the compact truck. Today, compact trucks are among the best-selling
vehicles in the United States and the world.
Source: Nissan North America Posted:
08-24-01 00:00 PT
© 2001 PickupTruck.com
of the Box
On the roads
of America in 1959, the landscape consisted of big, gas-guzzling
behemoths from domestic manufacturers. Powerful V8 engines were
the norm and the worth of a car was often measured by the size of
this scene emerged the Datsun 1000 compact pickup truck - the
first truck of its kind. Although the Datsun 1000 only featured
a 1000cc, 37-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and a quarter-ton
load capacity, it was the precursor of better things to come.
In immediate iterations, the engine size increased to 1200cc
and horsepower to 60.
revised Datsun 320 pickup hit the American shores in 1961, but
it was the introduction of the Datsun 520 pickup in 1965 that
caused a sales jump of then-historic proportions from a few hundred
units per year to more than 15,000. In its first year, the Datsun
520 pickup became the top-selling imported pickup in the United
States - a title the
company held onto for more than a decade.
success of the Datsun compact pickup drew the attention of other
import manufacturers and - following the gas crises of the early
- the domestic manufacturers as well. To stay ahead of entries
like the Ford Courier and Chevy LUV, Datsun trucks continued to
improve in handling, ruggedness, comfort and safety.
company also developed a series of breakthrough innovations that
have become standard in today's marketplace. In 1969, the Datsun
truck became the first half-ton compact pickup; in 1975, Datsun
trucks offered the first long beds; and in 1977, the King Cab
- the first extended-cab compact truck became available. These
latter two options became available during the lifecycle of the
Datsun 620 pickup - the fourth
generation of Datsun truck - which was in production from 1972
On to Tennessee
all-new pickup - the last to carry the Datsun name - appeared
in 1979, and sales continued to soar. Thanks to this success,
Nissan made a corporate decision to become the first importer
to manufacture pickups in the United States.
After an extensive
search, Nissan chose Smyrna, Tenn., southeast of Nashville, as the
site of the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A. (NMMC)
facilities. In the past two decades, Nissan has invested more than
one billion dollars into the plant and region, becoming a significant
member of the Middle Tennessee business environment. Since the first
Nissan pickup rolled off the Smyrna assembly line in 1983, more
than 1.7 million trucks have been built at NMMC.
sixth-generation truck, called the Hardbody, was unveiled in
1987 and was one of the company's best selling products, averaging
100,000-plus units annually.
Frontier, introduced in 1997 as a 1998 model, continued this
trend of innovation and ruggedness. Frontier features the largest
standard bed of any compact pickup, a full array of features
and options, including a powerful 6-cylinder engine, 4-wheel
drive and an available King Cab cabin. The 1998 Frontier took
home the J.D. Power and Associates'
1998 Initial Quality Study award for the fewest quality problems
in its segment.
In 1998, NMMC
was awarded the most productive automobile plant title in North
America for the fifth straight year by Harbour and Associates, a
manufacturing management consulting and automotive research firm.
mid-1999, two new versions of the Frontier were unveiled - the
rugged 2-wheel drive 2000 Frontier Desert Runner and the groundbreaking
Frontier Crew Cab, the first true 4-door compact pickup introduced
to the U.S. market.