TO THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
Nissan 360 degrees
Published on Sat, Sep 14, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Roy Nakano "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away." - Henry David Thoreau When its competitors seemed wedded to solid rear axles and conventional overhead valve engines, Nissan came out with an economy car with four-wheel independent suspension, rear-wheel drive, and an overhead cam engine. That car, the 1968 Datsun 510, gave birth to the import tuner movement (see LA Car's "In Search of the first Datsun 510 Import Tuner"). In the 1980s, Nissan kindled the fires for retro-heritage design when it introduced a small Citroën 2CV-esque commercial van and a throwback to the 1960 Fairlady into the marketplace. After the introduction of the Nissan S-Cargo and Figaro, retro (AKA heritage) designs proliferated, with cars like the Volkswagen New Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Ford Thunderbird, MINI Cooper, the new Fiat 500 and even today’s Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro following suit. All owe a bit of thanks to the S-Cargo and Figaro produced by Nissan over 20 years ago.
While other car companies today join the hybrid bandwagon, Nissan exhibits an unwavering commitment to electric vehicles through its Leaf—the first pure electric propulsion family sedan from a major manufacturer available at a family sedan price. Nissan’s foray into pure electric propulsion is both bold and risky, given the industry’s reliance on petroleum and the range limitations of going electric. So if you think Nissan marches to the beat of a different drummer, you’ve got good reason. But the company’s journey off the beaten path goes way back—to its founder, Yoshisuke Aikawa. In addition to his ties with Nissan, Aikawa was the chief proponent of a school of thought called the Fugu Plan.
“Make a great product” In the 1930s, backers of the Fugu Plan opposed the ideology of Nihon gunkoku shugi, the belief that militarism should dominate the social and political life of the nation. Author Marvin Tokayer (“The Fugu Plan”) summed up the philosophy of this school of thought as follows: “Why build a military and waste all that money on guns and munitions, and being hated and stabbed in the back, and going to war. Isn’t there another way? Yes, there is another way: Make a great product.” Backers of the Fugu Plan believed that the key to success was in commerce. The proponents argued that Japanese companies needed to learn how to build quality goods—and if you build it, “they will buy it from you whether they love you or hate you” (Tokayer). Toward this end, the proponents of the Fugu Plan supported a campaign to offer a safe haven for Jewish refugees, on the belief that the refugees could provide them with the skills, resources, and know-how to build and sell a great product. The Fugu Plan was marked for failure after Japan signed the Tripartite Treaty with Germany and Italy. Nissan’s Aikawa came out as a vocal opponent of the Tripartite Treaty, and predicted that the forces of the United Kingdom and France would prevail over Nazi Germany. This was a decidedly unpopular position among his countrymen at the time, but Aikawa marched to the beat of a different drummer. One of Aikawa’s co-supporters of the Fugu Plan, Chiune Sugihara, would later become Japan’s Vice-Consul in Lithuania, wherein he facilitated the escape of more than 6,000 Jewish refugees.
Around the world in 80 years 2014 marks 80 years for Nissan Motors. As a prelude to that milestone, the company gathered together its cars and trucks from all over the world and showcased them under the banner of “Nissan 360” at the former Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California (soon to be known as the Orange County Great Park). Since most of Nissan’s global vehicles can’t be driven on public roads in the USA, the vast, 4,600 acre former base served as the perfect venue for these mostly non-DOT-spec vehicles. Among the products available for drives were tiny, right-hand steering microcars like the Moco and DayZ, a new brand of cars for the Chinese market called Venucia, the new NV200 which will soon flood New York City as the official taxi replacement for the Crown Victoria, the South African NP200 car-based pickup truck, and several dozen other consumer and commercial vehicles—including a vehicle marketed for gourmet food trucks. On display for Nissan 360 were a 1935 Datsun 14 Roadster, a 1947 TMA Electric Car E4S-47, a 1958 Datsun 1000 Sedan 210 “Fuji”, a 1960 Datsun Pickup Truck 220, a 1961 Datsun Fairlady 1200 Roadster, a 1964 Skyline 2000GT S54, a 1971 Brock Racing Enterprises-modified Datsun 510, which was driven by John Morton, a 1997 Nissan R390 GT1 race car, the Nissan ZEOD RC all-electric race car, which will make its debut at Le Mans 2014, and a number of stunning new concept vehicles. Last, but not least, Nissan showcased the Datsun Go, which represents the return of the Datsun brand name. The Go will be introduced in the Indian, South African, Indonesian, and Russian markets in 2014—just in time to celebrate Nissan’s 80-year anniversary.
To the beat of a different drummer Many moons have passed since Nissan founder Yoshisuke Aikawa took on the establishment in favor of doing—what he believed to be—the right thing. That conviction and character has not been lost in the company. In 2011, Nissan North America took on a few of the lawmakers in Tennessee when they made efforts to erode the protection of anti-discrimination laws for same-sex partners in the state. As a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, Nissan took the lead in opposing the legislation. AT&T and FedEx, both members of the Chamber, followed Nissan’s lead, and succeeded in getting the Chamber to reverse its earlier support of the legislation (see LA Car’s “Nissan Takes a Stance”). In explaining why Nissan took the stance it took, David Reuter, Nissan North America’s vice president for corporate communications told Car Connection Senior Editor Bill Voelcker: “This explicit policy of non-discrimination, on both sexual orientation and gender expression, has long been a part of Nissan's culture. And it’s not only a policy, it’s the way we operate.” For more information about Nissan 360, go to nissan360.com For more information about Nissan products, go to nissanusa.com