The Japanese automakers were rapidly growing in the late 1960s, and one of the key secrets to their success was continuous improvement. In 1968, Datsun presented an excellent example of this approach with the new PL510, which offered significant enhancements compared with its (still good) predecessor, the RL411. Car and Driver pointed out all the upgrades and benefits in a full road test in the April 1968 issue.
“Seldom do we find such graphic proof that a car was made better than it had to be.” That was an incredibly powerful statement coming from Car and Driver, and certainly helped burnish Datsun’s reputation in the U.S. market. But in the case of the PL510, the praise was warranted, as the car really did break new ground for the Economy Car class. With a fully independent suspension, 1.6 liter sohc engine with an aluminum head and front disc/rear drum brakes all standard for just $2,095.95 ($15,339 adjusted), it was no wonder that the PL510 became a great choice for car enthusiasts on a tight budget. American buyers responded enthusiastically to the newest economy sedan from Japan, with Datsun’s overall 1968 U.S. sales rising to 58,467, a 29% increase compared to 1967. And sales would just keep climbing from there—funny how good products that beat market expectations have the ability to deliver great business results. As Car and Driver noted in closing: “The handwriting is on the wall—Japan is the world’s number two auto producer and there is only one more place to go.” And off they went!