In a far-reaching piece of corporate image-making, Datsun is really being driven right out of existence.
The Japanese automaker Nissan said Friday it is dropping the familiar name Datsun on cars and trucks it exports in favor of the corporate moniker.
Datsun dealers in the United States aren't altogether happy that Datsuns eventually will become Nissans, although few expect the switch will hurt business.
It was a major surprise, catching Nissan U.S.A. officials off guard -- not to mention dealers. And exterminating the name Datsun from dealer showrooms, cargo ships, letterheads, matchbook covers -- not to mention cars -- will be a costly operation.
To some dealers, it's outrageous.
'I think it is the worst thing they could do,' said Bucky Morris, vice president and general manager of Morris Datsun Inc. of Charleston, S.C. 'I think you'll see an organized protest. There was already a protest when it was only rumored.
'I will be one of the fighters,' said Morris, who paid thousands of dollars for signs at a new facility opened last year.
'I think it's ridiculous!' said Charles Caparino, sales manager of Datsun of Staten Island in New York.
Added Andy Spindler, sales manager of Quality Datsun in Orange, Calif: 'Who knows Nissan? Why change something that has been successful?
'We are going to become Quality Nissan! Well, none of the sales people think it's a good deal. We were told that Datsun in the U.S. did not favor it. We were led to believe that there would be no name change.'
Tetsuo Arakawa, president of Nissan U.S.A., said corporate officials ordered the switch because 'using the Nissan name better identifies our worldwide vehicle lineup and begins to unify our international image.'
Currently, its cars are sold as Nissans in Japan but exported vehicles are labeled Datsun, a name the company has used since 1932.
Americans have known Nissan products as Datsuns since the company entered the U.S. market in 1958. It sold 123 cars that year.
Total U.S. sales of Datsun cars and trucks now number 4,635,693, and Datsun is the second most popular import nameplate behind its rival Toyota.
A spokesman for Nissan's U.S. subsidiary said studies show only 13 percent of American consumers know what the name Nissan represents, which means a massive and costly campaign for the company to change its identity.
Many dealers contacted by UPI said the change would be gradual and wouldn't affect business. Some even thought it a good idea.
'It's still the same car as far as we're concerned,' said Rick Langenburg, fleet sales manager for Barnett Datsun in Dearborn, Mich. 'They're a fine product.'
'It's going to be a slow thing, obviously they're not going to do it overnight,' said Jack Burt, president of Frontier Imports in Helena, Mont. 'They have begun this past year to emphasize Nissan on our literature more than ever before. It's not a sudden change. It's just emphasizing the manufacturer rather than a single product.'
'I don't think it's going to affect anything one way or another,' said Joe Knight, owner of Knight's Datsun in West Warwick, R.I. 'I don't see any big change.'
/o .4K .V 4 K1 Foreign Cars in New York City. 'It's a great idea because the parent company is Nissan and it's known all over the world.'