• Dec 9th 2009 at 5:59PM
  • 20
Here's a bit of interesting folklore for you history-obsessed car buffs out there. Nissan (then selling Datsuns) was tricked into coming to America. Seems that Nissan never planned to sell cars here, as they felt that their diminutive, economical rides were too small and slow for the mighty U.S. market. However, one man felt different: Nobushige Wakatsuki.

The year was 1958 and
Wakatsuki had a job with Marubeni Trading Corp. where he was charged with finding Japanese products to import into the U.S. Wakatsuki approached Datsun's management and asked them if they'd be interested in bringing the brand Stateside. After all, Toyota had just began selling cars to Americans in 1957. Wakatsuki was humiliated when he heard their blunt reply, "No."

But Cazy Nobe -- as Nissan execs would later refer to the then 29-year-old -- refused to let a good business opportunity go to waste. He went ahead and procured some cars from Nissan under the pretense of a marketing exercise and proceeded to put them on sale. All of this was done behind Nissan's back. Which really pissed them off. In fact, it took another full year of pestering before Nissan took over the dealer network Crazy Nobe established here in 1960. However, the joke is on them, as Nissan/Infiniti sold nearly 1,000,000 cars in the US last year.

Nobushige Wakatsuki died on November 13, 2009 at the age of 81. Thanks for all the good memories, Mr. Wakatsuki.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req. | Image: Fudge]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive a '97 Nissan Truck, and while it hasn't been my most reliable vehicle, it's enjoyable, and it's one heck of a workhorse. I'm glad he had the sense to bring the brand over here back then, because I wouldn't have my truck without him.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I bought a Datsun 2000 sports car brand new in 1968, 2000 cc and the first five speed transmission available in the states. Fun and fast little car, but a mechnical disaster and the body rusted out in two years.

      A little known tidbit is that Nissan dropped the Datsun name because many of those old Datsun's were unreliable and prone to failure, mine sure was.
      • 5 Years Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a 350z owner. Thank you.

      • 5 Years Ago
      He's not that crazy looking guy I saw on those commercials a few years back is he?

      I am not trying to disrespect him in any way, just asking.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My understand is that he was NOT the guy in the Nissan ads, having long retired from the company by that point - however, that actor in the ads was a fairly accurate representation of him. And it was deliberate.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Thank you Mr. Wakatsuki.

      • 5 Years Ago
      RIP Mr. Wakatsuki, the auto world is thankful of your contribution.

      I wonder if there are any smart Chinese businessman that can follow Crazy Nobe's footsteps and have the cojones to bring the Chinese cars over to the US even when they're obviously inferior in design and build right now, because that's exactly what Datsuns were when they first appeared here in the US.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Time to marathon Wangan Midnight. Godspeed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Very cool story.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You insensitive a-hole.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Not cool that he's dead, obviously...
      • 5 Years Ago
      The guy has my respect. Without him the Datsun 240Z wouldn't be my favorite car probably...

      ...So Thank You sir! and RIP.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I loved my Datsun 510 2 dr coupe with a 2.0L aluminium truck engine transplant, 5 sp manual. I also love my 07 Altima 3.5 SE 6 sp manual. Keep building great cars and I will keep buying them.

      Thank you Master Wakatsuki.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a former owner of a '96 Nissan Pathfinder that gave me bulletproof service (except for the odometer) and a current co-owner of a '99 Maxima that has given me the utmost respect for the VQ engine, I tip my hat to the memory of this man.
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