Nissan is celebrating the 1,000,000th Nissan Frontier pickup truck that was built last week at its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn., according to a report from Automotive News. Niche automakers such as Bantam and Crosley were among the first to sell small trucks in the U.S. but Nissan was the first mainstream seller.
Nissan’s Datsun 1000 was exported to the U.S. in 1959. It had a load capacity of a quarter of a ton and it was powered by a 1000-cc, 37-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
Nissan released a 1200-cc version that had a 60 hp rating next. Nissan sold only a few hundred of these pickups annually until the arrival of the Datsun 520 pickup in 1965 when it saw annual sales go up to over 15,000.
The Datsun 520 pickup was the best-selling imported pickup in the U.S. from its first year of release until more than a decade after. The Datsun truck became the first half-ton compact pickup in 1969. The first long beds first featured in Datsun trucks in 1975.
Two years after, the King Cab, the first extended-cab compact truck, was offered. The last model to have the Datsun name, an all-new pickup, came out in 1979.
Nissan made the decision to become the first importer to build pickups in the U.S. because it had been so successful for a very long time and also, it wanted to avoid the 25% import tariff on most foreign-built pickups referred to as the “chicken tax.”
In 1983, the first Nissan pickup was built at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. USA plant in Smyrna. This plant built the fifth- and sixth-generation pickups until the seventh generation Nissan Frontier began to be built in this assembly line in 1997 as a 1998 model.