Yutaka Katayama, (who is known as Mr. K by Nissan/Datsun enthusiasts, founded Nissan Motor’s U.S. subsidiary in 1960, and is widely considered the father of the Z-Car, (to many people he represents Nissan itself). Katayama was quite the rebel back in Japan. He was one of few Japanese people to follow the Christian religion. Mr. K came from a rich family, was a driver in many Australian road rallies, and he got speeding tickets everywhere he went.
The first great car that he brought to America was the Datsun 1200 roadster, which was meant to be a direct competitor to the MG and Austin Healey line of cars that were popular in the 1960s. After a series of several roadsters, Datsun began producing their much loved pickup truck and the immortal Z-Car. Except the Z wasn't supposed to be the Z at all. You see Katayama was constantly questioning the decisions of the executives above him in Tokyo. When they insisted that the car that was to become the 240-Z be named "Fair Lady", Mr. K and his friends just pulled the nameplates off the first cars and replaced them with 240-Z badges. The "240-Z soon became a huge hit in America, even more popular than the 1200 Roadster was. But the men back in Tokyo were not happy with Yutaka, not at all. Finally, in 1976, Nissan fired Katayama, and shortly thereafter committed the colossal mistake of changing the Datsun name, and destroying the many decades it had taken to put that name in the mind of American consumers. The current Nissan name is still not as prevalent as Toyota, and many people say that is because of the name change (Datsun and Toyota have by far the longest American presence of any Japanese car manufacturers).
On October 13, 1998
, he was indoctinated in the Automotive Hall of Fame
has begun to respect this man once again. They ran a series of commercial
s a few years ago featuring a smiling old man
, (who represented Katayama). But those commercials seem to have been only temporay, as now Nissan is concentrating on their "Zoom Zoom Zoom" series of commercials.
Today Yutaka spends much of his time travelling and visiting Z-Car shows around the world.