NISSAN LEGEND DIES: Yutaka Katayama (inset), the man widely credited as the “father of the Z” – a reference to the 1968 Datsun Z sports car, died at the age of 105. Image: Nissan
TOKYO, Japan - Yutaka Katayama, the man widely credited as the “father of the Z” – a reference to the Datsun Z sports car that was first released in 1968 – has died aged 105.
Katayama, a former Nissan executive who was simply known as “Mr K” in the Z-car community, retired from the company in 1977 after running the US division for some time.
He is also credited with building the Datsun (and later Nissan) brand in the US as well as having influenced the automaker to build and bring the 510 - the Datsun Bluebird - to market.
Katayama was widely revered and respected in the automotive world, and for his contribution to the industry he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in both the US and Japan.
He was born on September 15 1909 in Tokyo and joined the Nissan Motor Company in 1935 after graduating from Keio University. He worked in a variety of marketing jobs before being sent to the US in 1960.
At the time fewer than 1000 Datsun vehicles were sold in the US a year. Katayama became Nissan's top executive in the US in 1965 and during his tenure he turned the company into a household name.
FOCUS ON SPORTY
He also established a racing team to prove the durability of Datsun cars and constantly nagged the Nissan parent company for improvements on their models. The first Z-car, known in Japan as the Fairlady, was released in 1969 and Katayama sold it in the US and other countries as the 240Z.
Its success led Nissan to begin focusing on a sporty image. The Z-range was discontinued in 1996 but was revived in 2006 as the 350Z (now the 370Z).
The original 240Z was never available in South Africa but its successors, the 260Z , 280Z and 300ZX, were released locally from the early 1970's until the 1990's.
Katayama leaves a widow, four children, 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren. Watch the story of Yutaka Katayama’s life:
Life and times of Yutaka Katayama: Part 1
Life and times of Yutaka Katayama: Part 2
Life and times of Yutaka Katayama: Part 3