Datsun-Nissan Weekend Edition: The Volkswagen Years

It’s not terribly uncommon for automobile manufacturers to shake hands and enter partnerships. There are parts-sharing deals, badge engineering endeavours and common development. But still, one of the weirdest things to have taken place was Nissan taking up the manufacturing of Volkswagen’s midsize Santana saloon and offering it via its own dealerships.
There it was, from 1984 to 1990, built in Zama, Japan and called the M30 in Nissan’s own internal speak. And it didn’t look terribly bad while at it.

Handsome and square-jawed as the Santana was, it gave Nissan’s model portfolio a touch of austere German style. On those Scirocco-like wheels, the Meisterwerk edition above looked especially clean.
You could also get the Santana as a very basic, 1800cc edition on 13″ steelies and utilitarian near-flat paint. The other engine choices were a two-litre five and a 1.6-litre turbodiesel.
The amazing thing about the Japanese Santana was that it was re-tooled to fit Japanese regulations. The once-1690mm wide car was narrowed by 5mm to edge only just underneath the tax bracket, so it could be more affordable. The grille and headlights were also JDM on the M30 Santana.
Even if the Santana was offered nicely equipped, it didn’t chalk up massive sales. Over the six-year period, Nissan built 50 000 units and then moved on to selling the 3B Passat successor. The Passat was available via Nissan dealers only from 1990 to 1991, when Volkswagen moved over to cooperating with Toyota (remember the Taro version of the Hilux?) and Nissan closed up the German shop. But as a weird automotive footnote, Nissan’s VW years definitely stand as one worth remembering.

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  1. dead_elvis Avatar

    Plaid upholstery needs to make a comeback.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    This is entirely new to me…wow. 50000 cars in six years with a retooling included can’t have been too profitable – even without much development cost. No CKD’s, all Japanese made? Were these reliable?
    The Santana was sold for ages in China, too. It is a restrained, somewhat handsome design, but the proportions have never really added up for me. Bumpers sagging towards the middle don’t do it any favours either.

  3. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I’ve learnt so much today. Also, that may be the most awesome Radio/Cassette combination I’ve ever seen.

  4. justinx Avatar

    I remember reading how proud Nissan was at the number of welds they eliminated when they manufactured the VW

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