Behind the Badge: Unexpected Meanings of Datsun/Nissan Names & Emblems
How Nissan's logo and name boast its Japanese heritage
The Nissan Motor Company typically doesn’t get attention for its seemingly un-creative logo. After all, it is practically the plainest badge you’ll see on a car (next to Kia’s text-only logo). But the emblem, like the name of the automaker, has a rich history behind it. As a visual representation of the company, it’s fits perfectly.
Want to know what it means? Keep reading!
What’s in a Name? Nissan and Datsun
The meanings of the Nissan and Datsun names are strongly tied to the company’s history. Here’s a quick timeline of the automaker’s heritage:
1910-1920: The Kwaishinsha Motor Car Works company is founded and produces the small passenger car DAT (acronym of the company’s investors’ names: Kenjiro Den, Rokuro Aoyama, Meitaro Takuchi).
1920-1930: Kwaishinsha Co. becomes DAT Motorcar Company. Separately, Yoshisuke Aikawa founds Nippon Sangyo, abbreviated in stock market as “Ni-san.”
1930-1940: DAT manufactures the Datson, literally meaning the son of DAT, a smaller version of the DAT. Shortly after, a merger between the companies establishes Nissan Motor Co. Nissan renames the company and car Datsun, because “son” also means “loss” in Japanese, while “sun” would honor the Japanese nation.
1950-1970: Nissan/Datsun achieve exportation success during this time, and subsequent mergers bring forth new models.
1970-1990: The US energy crisis brings a demand for fuel-efficient Japanese imports. Nissan Motors USA is established and the Datsun brand is phased out by 1986.
1990-2000: Before the turn of the century, Nissan makes a deal with Renault to avoid bankruptcy.
2010s: Datsun is relaunched as a low-cost brand for emerging markets.
Not only is the Nissan name an abbreviation for the original company, it’s also a combination of Japanese characters “ni” (“sun”) and “ssan” (“product” or “birth”). Thus, Nissan is a product of Japan, the land of the rising sun.
Is the Nissan Logo Just a Circle?
When Nissan entered the US market in the early 1980s, the first models carried both the Nissan and Datsun badges–both text-based designs which had been used for decades.
Then, as Datsun was phased out, the original Datsun logo began carrying the Nissan name. This design was a combination of two simple geometric shapes: a blue rectangle over a red circle, with the company name inscribed on the rectangle. The red circle is speculated to pay homage to the Japanese flag.
In the early 1990s, this colorful logo was replaced with a chrome outline of the shapes. The silver color represents modernism and sophistication. By the 2000s, the lines had become thicker and more rounded. After recovering from bankruptcy, Nissan changed its product focus to being “bold” and thoughtful,” and introduced its new, successful tagline SHIFT_.
The Datsun logo was redesign for its relaunch, though it still holds some trace influences from its original geometric logo.
Check out this interactive exploration of the Nissan logo evolution here.
Enjoy learning about the Nissan emblem? Check out the rest of our “Behind the Badge” series to learn about other auto brands!
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