The Post War Era: Reconstruction with Foreign Guidance



Post War DC-3 Roadster, very tough, but not so fast


The Americans, under the direction of General MacArthur, took control of Japans government and economy for several years after the end of the war. The Americans saw many of the Exec's at Nissan as too dangerous to leave in place, so like they had with every other corner of Japanese industry, they purged everyone they thought militant or dangerous from the company. Nissans founder Yohisuke Ayukawa, and company president Shoji Yamamoto, were both purged from the company by 1947. This left Taichi Minoura as president in 1947. Minoura soon was in trouble up to his neck with Nissans very aggressive Labor Unions, a problem that would hobble Nissan's growth for the next decade. Minoura was not a whiz with finances either, so he asked the Industrial Bank of Japan to send him someone to handle finances. They sent out a 42 year old banker named Katsuji Kawamata, an ambitious man who knew nothing of cars, and who quickly learned to hate the Nissan union.

Many other Japanese companies faced similar circumstances, including the Fuji Sangyo group, which was split up, but later reorganized to some extent as Fuji Heavy Industries(makers of Subaru). One other company to get dismantled was Tachikawa Aircraft, which then became Prince Motor Co.

The Yokohama Nissan factory was damaged during the Second World War. It was rebuilt in 1946 by occupation forces, restarted with Gorham as manager and began with the production of trucks; cars followed in 1947 with the Datsun Thrift series, which was based on prewar Datsun models. The Thrift models were apparently very close to the American Crosley mini cars.

Nissan got a boost in 1950 from, of all people, the US Army. The Americans, through the UN, were supplying the military effort in Korea. The US army used a variety of Datsun mini trucks and other vehicles for non-combat duty in Korea.


Datsun serving duty with the US forces in Korea


1951 saw the return of Genshichi Asahara to Nissan, a company man purged by the Americans. With the support of Kawamata and the Union, Asahara became president of Nissan, replacing Minoura. Racing of Datsuns started again about this time, soon after the production of the new DC-3 roadster, the great Grandfather of the Z car.

The more important development that year was a production deal signed with Austin to build licensed versions of the Austin A40. These cars were manufactured in Japan, but still used some English components.

Nissan just about fell into bankruptcy in 1953 and 54, due to serious labor unrest. Nissan Management, led by Katsuji Kawamata and backed by Japan's bankers, and the workers ultra powerful union lead by Tetsuo Masuda engaged in an epic battle that eventually lead to the creation of a new pro-company union, and the expulsion of most of the previous unions leaders, including Masuda. This victory by Nissan management lead to a much more productive company.

1955 was the year that Datsun really took flight again, with the release of their first real Japanese cars, the 110 sedan, followed by a station wagon version, the k110 convertible, and a 120 pickup truck. A licensed version of the Austin A50 also went into production, but this time using all Japanese parts. A 25 horsepower L head Austin based engine powered most models.


Nissan/Austin A50


The ambitious Mr. Kawamata, the force behind Nissans new union, and new management team, became the company's president in December 1957.

The 50's were a period of extreme growth and development for Nissan. Production numbers show part of the story. 1950: a total of 865 cars where produced, by 1955 that number was up over 7800. 1957 over 20,000, 1959 over 32,000, and by 1960 production had reached 66,000 cars, nearly 5000 of which where exported. Nissan got itself in good shape during the previous decade. It was now in a position to expand to new markets, which is exactly what it did.


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