“Father of the Z” Yutaka Katayama Dies at 105 – Nissan Legend Mourned Worldwide

By Steve & Tamami Laser

The automotive world has lost another legend. Yutaka Katayama, the man known as “Mr. K,” has died at age 105 in Japan. Katayama ran Nissan’s U.S. operations in the 1970s and is widely known as the father of the Datsun Z. He retired from Nissan in 1977.


Nissan’s Newsroom released the following statement:

“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.”


Mr. K, during his last visit to the Tokyo Motor Show in 2013, approved of Nissan’s retro-inspired IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO concept vehicles, as Peter Brock of BRE fame shares the moment with him.

Born in September 1909, in what is now Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Mr. K joined the company in 1935 and was assigned to the Administration Department, first handling publicity and then advertising. Among his significant accomplishments, Mr. K:

  • Made one of the first color films of a Datsun on Japanese roads and later filmed motor sport races across the globe, raising the bar for decades of visual story telling ahead.
  • With a love of cars and a flair for promotion, he built the Datsun brand, Nissan’s initial brand name in the U.S., from scratch.
  • In his storied career, he was team manager as two Datsun 210s were entered in a grueling rally circumnavigating the Australian continent. The subsequent victory instantly catapulted the brand into worldwide renown and set the stage for Datsun exports.
  • Notably, he put together the key concepts for the Z-car, contributing significantly to the birth of an exceptional sports car still revered by driving enthusiasts.
  • Retiring in 1977, he was later inducted into the American Automotive Hall of Fame in 1998 for ushering in a generation of vehicles that redefined the American car market, as well as the Japan Automotive Hall of Fame for pioneering deeds on both sides of the Pacific.
  • Among other key achievements, Katayama promoted the first All-Japan Motor Show (Tokyo Motor Show) in 1954, as well as laid the foundations for Nissan North America.

News source and photos courtesy of Nissan

Story intro 2015 CarNichiWa.com