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January 9, 1958 – Toyota and Datsun come to the USA

On January 9, 1958, Nissan and Toyota showcased their cars in the USA for the first time at Imported Car Show in Los Angeles. While some Datsuns, Nissan’s vehicle trade name at the name, and some Toyotas came home with servicemen in the early 1950s, this was the first time that the two companies officially presented their cars to the American public.

Above: Customized 1960 Datsun-1000, similar to the first Datsuns available for sale in the US. By Vetatur Fumare. Top: A right hand drive 1959 Toyopet Crown, similar to the model that debuted in LA in 1958. By Iwao

The vehicles debuted included a Datsun-1000 and a Toyota Toyopet Crown. Although Toyota had opened a Hollywood dealership in October of the previous year, sales didn’t begin until after the show. Toyota found their small, underpowered cars were not popular and headed back to the drawing board. Datsun, on the other hand, featured stronger engines and steadily grew in popularity. The first US Datsun dealership opened on October 8, 1958 in San Diego by Ray Lemke. The first Datsuns to hit American shores featured a 48hp engine and a four speed column shifter.