Jason’s post earlier about the drawings that led to the Pao sent me down a deep Internet k-hole of Nissan press releases and Nissan press images. There’s a lot to digest and you’ll probably see more stories gleaned from archival material. While we work up some deeper dives I noticed something a bit more superficial and, yet, still instructive. You can really see how the company evolved by just looking at their Tokyo Motor Show offerings.
Nissan did a good job of posting photos from most of the Tokyo Motor Shows and you can go to their archive to see everything, but here’s a quick trip:
This is the oldest photo in the Nissan press archive and you can see what looks like two Datsun Bluebirds and a Nissan Prince sports car. Apparently, the event was quite the success per the Nissan press department:
At this point, Nissan/Datsun had been in business making cars for 30 years and brought with it 17 cars to show off to the million+ visitors who dropped into to check out the vehicles on display.
The Datsun Sport Coupe 1500 was quite handsome and shows a time when the Japanese were far more influenced by Italian design than by anything the Americans were doing. We don’t think of this car often because the Datsun 510 and 240Z became so relatively important in the United States.
What a difference nine years can make. By the early 1970s Japanese automakers were making significant inroads into global markets. I’d forgotten that Nissan experimented with rotaries which, given the impending oil crisis, wasn’t the best move.
Hell yeah Skyline. Everyone wants to be America!
There are huge gaps in the years, but jumping from decade to decade does give you a sense of just how quickly the Japanese evolved in twenty years. The NX-21 Concept is a four-seat coupe with giant gullwing doors and a rear-mounted gas turbine motor that could use gas, diesel, tequila or whatever combustable liquid you could find. While the motor didn’t make it to the future, the design did influence the Pulsar NX.
Feel the beat! We have so many great photos from the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show that not only gives us the concepts but also the fashion and overall scene. This Leopard (approximately our Infiniti M30) shows off a retractable hard top.
This is in the midst of the Bubble Era in Japan when that Japanese economy was flush with export cash from its booming economy and overvalued assets.
We get weird off-roaders, little kei cars, commercial vehicles, and EV concepts. Just look at the spread:
This is just Behar-Lotus level extravagance.
Skip ahead to after the bubble burst and things are a bit more subdued. The big reveal is the Nissan AQ-X compact sedan, which “represents Nissan’s philosophy of sedans suitable for the coming new era.” There is the Nissan AP-X concept, which wasn’t as influential from a design standpoint, but did feature the all-new VQ V6 engine that would be the centerpiece of Nissan performance for the next two decades.
By 1999 Nissan was in awful shape financially and needed help. Lucky for them, Renault was in the same shape. The combination of Nissan and Renault would eventually see a company that was semi-successful. The above Nissan Cypat concept never bore much fruit aesthetically, but the CVT transmission it showcased would eventually become common. The Nissan XVL is a thinly disguised version of the Nissan Skyline/Infiniti G35.
Around this time a young executive named Carlos Ghosn would being to climb through the ranks at the alliance, which could only end well.
Annoyingly, I cannot find a photo of the Nissan Leaf at the 2010 Tokyo Motor Show, but here it is debuting in Tokyo. An extremely important car for Nissan even if it wasn’t a huge success.
Carlos Ghosn, now CEO, with the Pivo 3 (your guess is as good as mine). Nissan had a bunch of whacky EV concepts, including the ESFLOW and TOWNPOD.
I’m sympathetic to Carlos Ghosn, sometimes, but for showing us the IDx concepts and not bringing them to market he can rot in hell forever.
Curiously, Carlos Ghosn is not at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show. Probably because of the IDx concepts and certainly nothing else. Here’s the IMk concept.
The most recent Tokyo Auto Show was a reminder that, actually, Nissan has more experience building EVs than most. They may have picked the wrong product direction with the Leaf, but they can easily rectify that with the Ariya EV crossover, which debuted in Tokyo.
The archives are open, so let me know what else you find.
All photos Nissan.