In a race in California, the engineer's team beat a Volkswagen. That convinced the group that Datsuns would sell in America.
The young Nissan engineer was part of a four-man group that tested a pickup and car in California in 1958 in an attempt to prove the vehicles worthy of the U.S. market.
Part of the Nissan team's research included racing the car up a hill against a Volkswagen on a stretch of the San Diego Freeway. The Datsun won the race, convincing the engineers that Nissan had a chance.
Maki reported back to the Nissan board that Datsuns could be sold here if some modifications were made.But something was missing at that pivotal meeting with directors at the Tokyo airport. Maki had lost two of his teeth when his head went through a windshield during a crash in California, according to The Reckoning, a 1986 book by the late journalist David Halberstam.
Maki did not want the Nissan directors to know about the accident, so he tried to stick the missing teeth back in with chewing gum. But the teeth kept coming loose during his presentation to the board. Nissan President Katsuji Kawamata finally asked Maki, “What the hell are you doing?” Halberstam wrote.
The engineers fessed up and apologized for what they considered to be a shameful accident. The worry was unfounded. Kawamata and the board quickly gave the OK to sell vehicles in the United States.
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