“Mr K,” father of the Z car dies at 105

Yutaka Katayama, better known as Mr K, the first president of Nissan in the US has died at the age of 105. He was most known for introducing the very cost-effective Datsun Z sports car to American consumers in the early 70s.

Mr K stepped down from his position in Nissan and retired altogether from the company in 1977. However, his voice has continued to be an influence for the Z cars, as well as the Nissan brand itself in the US.


Katayama was president of the US sales and marketing subsidiary from 1965 to 1975. But in the 1900s, Nissan used an actor bearing similarities to Mr K to feature in its TV advertising.

According to news reports, Mr Katayama died of a heart failure at a hospital in Tokyo, Japan.

The Datsun 240Z – introduced in 1970 – is the model most associated with Katayama as it was the vehicle released when the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro were quite popular. Mr K remained active as a visiting celebrity at Z fan clubs and Datsun and Nissan events even after stepping down from the company.


It was under Mr K’s leadership that the US retail network of Nissan released the iconic Datsun 510, a small Japanese sedan that Mr K hoped would avert the interest of shoppers from Germany’s BMW.

Mr K’s arrival in the US was not of his approval. He was sent to the country for early market research but he considered it “exile” for speaking out against the Japanese unions of Nissan.

But during his so-called “exile,” he was able to accomplish a lot of things in a time when other Japanese automakers thought it crazy to try and sell Japanese cars in America where drivers preferred vehicles that can traverse the open road in high speed.


Mr K turned 105 in September and cited the drinking of three liters of water each day as the reason for his good health.

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