Yutaka Katayama, the first president of Nissan Motor Corporation U.S.A and the mind behind the successful Nissan/Datsun’s sports car Z passed away at the age of 105 in a Tokyo hospital, as his son announced on Saturday, February 21.
Widely known as Mr. K, Yutaka Katayama was the man responsible to bridge the gap between Japan and American market for Nissan. In 1960 he was sent from Nissan to Los Angeles to build a U.S dealer selling the Japanese cars, but the company was not sure about its potential, hence it was decided to sell cars under the badge Datsun so if it failed, it wouldn’t sour the name Nissan in the American market. “In the beginning, Datsun dealers had no status or prestige, and they were not wealthy either,” Mr. K says in the following videos from Nissan. “During the difficult times, we all gritted our teeth and worked together and we made it through. For me, they are not just dealers but friends. I’m speaking like I’m a big man, but I owe everything to them.”
In 1967 the Datsun 510 had already been introduced to the Americans and its course was promising. Mr. K had built so far his network and two years later he was ready to present to the U.S market a two-seater car with competitive performance and european style. It was the Datsun Fairlady Z which was renamed later from Yutaka Katayama himself, 240Z. Nissan in its official website explains: “Though many, many people were responsible for the design and engineering of the first generation 240Z, its success in North America can be attributed to Yutaka Katayama, who was president of Nissan’s U.S. operations at the time. Known affectionately as “Mr. K,” he was convinced that the company’s new sports car design would be a hit in the U.S. There was just one problem – the vehicle’s name: the Fairlady Z (which is still used in the Japanese market today). With a name change for this market to “240Z” and some aggressive marketing, including early motorsports success, the Z® became an instant hit – bringing attention and buyers not just to Z®, but also to the entire brand”.
In 1977 Mr. K retired from Nissan being accredited for 240Z’s success story, while in 1998 he earned a spot in the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan. Until his last days, Mr. K was involved, though from distance, with Nisssan’s new models and especially with Fairlady’s successors, the 350Z and 370Z. Below you can watch three videos that Nissan produced to commemorate its legend, Yutaka Katayama.
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