Like sunrises, car models come and go. Fortunately, we Americans have some models so great and reliable that we renew them every generation without much trouble. Nissan Motor Company, one of the most recognizable car brands in the U.S., offers many of those great and reliable models. In fact, some of them have been in our country for over four decades!
Forty years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of the global automobile market, but Nissan didn’t have a strong presence in the United States until the early 1980s.
Americans started seeing Nissan cars on the street in 1958, but all these nameplates are obsolete today. It wasn’t until Nissan started opening up U.S.-based branches in 1980 and 1981 that we started embracing them as one of our own. As a result, we have many trusted Nissan nameplates prowling our streets generation after generation.
Want to know which Nissan nameplates have been around the longest in the U.S.? Check 'em out!
1. Nissan Z Car (est. 1975)
Originally under the Datsun brand (which was a Nissan division until 1986), the Z car got its start in 1970. Nissan imported the first generation of the Z car (the Datsun 240Z) to the U.S., but Nissan/Datsun remained a relatively small automobile maker so no one really knew about it.
The next generation's 1975 release of the 280Z changed everything. It helped establish Nissan’s presence in the United States and put Nissan/Datsun on the map.
During its 4th generation, the Z car went on a hiatus in 2000 because of inflated manufacturing costs and the rise of SUVs. Two years later, Nissan decided to give the once-popular series another shot, so they kicked off the fifth generation with the 350Z. It's currently on its sixth generation with the fastest Z car ever made, the 370Z.
2. Nissan Maxima (est. 1981)
Did you know that the 1981 Nissan Maxima was the first talking car ever sold in the U.S.? With the goal of starting their presence in the U.S. on a strong note, Nissan installed a phonograph-based voice warning system in their first generation of Maximas. The female voice had only one line, and it was, “please turn off the lights.”
The Nissan Maxima went on to become a widely recognized sedan in the U.S., continually making numerous “best of” lists right up to this day. Well into its eighth generation, the Maxima currently identifies as a luxurious full-sized sedan. It runs on a 3.5L V6 engine with 300 horsepower and features a wide array of modern conveniences. And, yes, it talks.
3. Nissan Sentra (est. 1982)
Originally a subcompact car, the Sentra spent the last 35 years gradually growing in size. It’s now rated as a mid-size car.
The Sentra debuted in 1982 as an entry-level car without many luxuries. Despite its bare-boned nature, the Sentra skyrocketed to the best-selling import and the fourth-best selling passenger car in the U.S. Many attribute its unexpected popularity to the fact that it got a whooping 43/58 MPG, which was the highest gas mileage during its time.
Sales for the Sentra hit two million only ten years later, in 1992. Currently in its seventh generation, the Sentra remains one of the most popular sedans. It’s no surprise because it’s ridiculously affordable. You can get a brand new 2017 model for only about $17,000.
4. Nissan Pathfinder (est. 1985)
When Nissan unveiled the Pathfinder in 1985, it was a two-door SUV. It joined the vast sea of SUVs on the road, including the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner, so its popularity was uncertain at first. The Pathfinder kept on truckin’ and proved itself a solid presence in the SUV space.
Nissan turned the Pathfinder into a 4-door SUV in 1990, while it was still in its first generation. After undergoing many facelifts and redesigns in the last 32 years, the Pathfinder now turns heads with LED lights, an attractive tech package, and Platinum trim levels.
5. Infiniti (est. 1989)
In 1985, Nissan entertained the idea of going down a more luxurious path. Four years later, Infiniti was born. It’s not a model like all the other nameplates on this list. Rather, it’s a luxurious division within the Nissan brand.
If you look at any Infiniti car made before 2013, you’ll notice an analog clock in place of the usual digital clock. It’s one of the fancy, unique touches you’d find that set Infinitis apart from other Nissans. For some reason, they decided to get rid of the analog clock in their post-2013 models in favor of an app displaying a clock.
Upon its launch, 51 Infiniti dealerships opened up in the United States and the nameplate immediately became a hit. Infiniti went on to produce many different models and concept vehicles. It's clear that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
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