A Nissan legend and the man known as "Mr. K," Yutaka Katayama has died at the age of 105.

Born in the Shizuoka Prefecture September 1909, Katayama was hired by Nissan in 1935 to handle publicity and advertising.  He is credited for creating lifestyle-based auto ads in an era when commercials were repetitive and boring.

After steering two Datsun 210s to a win at the 10,000-mile Mobilgas Around Australia Trial in 1958 as Racing Team Manager, Katayama finally knew that his true calling was to champion the Datsun brand.

image alt

Katayama was assigned to the United States in 1960 and spearheaded the arduous task of building the name and prestige of the Datsun Z.  "In the beginning, Datsun dealers had no status or prestige, and they were not wealthy either.  During the difficult times, we all gritted our teeth and worked together and we made it through. For me, they are not just dealers but friends. I’m speaking like I’m a big man, but I owe everything to them," said Mr. K.

Yutaka Katayama, widely known as the father of the Datsun Z, successfully built the brand from scratch and ran Nissan’s US operations for 17 years before retiring in 1977.  One of his main achievements included the promotion of the first All-Japan Motor Show in 1954 and the push to market the Fairlady Z in the US but not before rebranding it to the 240Z.  The 240Z was a huge success in sales and motorsports presence in the US.

Mr. K has been inducted into the American Automotive Hall of Fame as well as the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame for pioneering deeds on both sides of the Pacific.

"Yutaka Katayama (Mr. 'K') was a passionate ambassador for the Datsun and Nissan brands and our condolences go out to his family and friends. His more than 80 years in the car business included an induction into both the American and Japanese Automotive Hall of Fames. He was a pioneer on both sides of the Pacific, and we are grateful for his service to Nissan and his passion for our brands," Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., said in a statement.