HISTORY: The story of Datsun, Nissan & Prince Switzerland – Part 7 “commercial vehicles”
This is the seventh part of a multi-post series about the (hi)story of Datsun, Prince and Nissan in switzerland. Check out the other parts HERE.
In this installment we have a look at probably the least interesting part of this all, but in my opinion still an important part of the Datsun / Nissan Switzerland story: Industrial service and commercial vehicles. This includes small trucks, Transporter buses, forklifts, pickups and much more.
This story has two different starting points than the normal datsun / Nissan car business and is slightly complicated, because the brand names switch from Nissan to Datsun to Nissan again and commercial vehicles (busses, pickups, etc) are a different business than Industrial products (mainly forklifts). But let’s start from the beginning…
1. Hämmerli AG 1968-197x
Hämmerli is a well known swiss firearms manufacturer, located in Hendschikon (Lenzburg, in the Kanton of Aargau), and well known for it’s precision sports rifles and competition air guns. they later got bought by SIG and produced the famous swiss army assault rifle StGw90, including the sniper versions. It was later again bought by the Walther group (of James bond’s “Walther PPK” fame), where it still belongs to today. Check out this german-written Wikipedia link to read more about that story or check out a whole book of the company here. In the photo on the left side below, you can see the factory including the vehicle storage warehouse:
What many people don’t know, is the fact that the early Hämmerli AG also started to import industrial vehicles of various brands like “Magirus Deutz” in 1955, as this business purpose change in the swiss commercial registry states:
Even though the “Nissan” Brand was never mentioned in any related commercial register records, they later it also added “Nissan” branded industrial / commercial vehicles (mainly the Nissan Caball small truck) to it’s lineup.
I only found out this when i stumbled upon this (unfortunately undated) Swiss market Brochure for sale in Australia of all places!
According to an 1968 “Automobilrevue” newspaper text, the Caball was available in Switzerland since the beginning of 1968. So that was most probably the point where hämmerli started to import / Sell those…
The same text also says that the SATG (Schweizerische Automobiltechnische Gesellschaft), held an “Nippon” themed event, where the journalists where introduced to japanese car manufacturers, videos of the japanese factories where shown and at a “Mini Tokyo Auto Salon”, japanese cars where displayed on the premises of the Hämmerli AG in Lenzburg together with Datsun (Suisse) SA and Toyota Switzerland, but also included an S800 by Honda and specialized japanese tools and instruments by the responsible import companies. Mr. Ernst Pfister from Datsun (Suisse) SA even held a speech there. So it seems the parallel business was very friendly, the companies (Datsun Suisse and Hämmerli) knew each other and had a good relationship. Personally, i think that the DSSA was focussing on passenger cars under the “Datsun” brand and happily left the commercial business (under the “Nissan” brand to the Hämmerli AG.
The first “Nissan” branded car which i found officially homologated for the Hämmerli AG was the Nissan Caball LC 240 on the 30. June 1969, but it might be that the archive of old homologations is not complete, or i simply missed something, because according to above text (photo) they were already Available in switzerland since the beginning of 1968. But if you check the numbering (3590 – 01) below, you can see it is the first car that was homologated for the Nissan brand. However things might just have been a bit differently back then and something got lost over the time here…
It seems like the Caball was perfect for deliviers in tight city roads. Which may explain why there are two breweries (Eichhof and Anker Bier) pictured in this catalogues, as well as another drinks supplier. Definitely also love the hand-made character of this catalogue (flip side of the catalogue shown in the first picture on this post…)
What is interesting here, is that the vehicles where all branded “Nissan” and not Datsun. I guess Nissan only used the Datsun brand name on the cars, and not on commercial vehicles in the early days.
2. Parallel Years (Datsun Suisse SA and Hämmerli) 1970-197x
To me it is not really clear when exactly the shift from Hämmerli to Datsun (Suisse) SA, was done, but for some years they ran the commercial vehicles in parallel, at least if you count the Nissan Patrol as a commercial vehicle, as DSSA did time-wise.
It however seems that Hämmerli only ever sold the “Nissan Caball”. I never found an evidence they ever imported any other NMC vehicles.
This is an January 1972 Datsun (Suisse) SA Technical Bulletin information, which states that any Service, warranty case or technical support for the Nissan Caball had to be reqested directly to Hämmerli AG, and DSSA had nothing to do with it.
Here is the last official swiss homologation sheet which i found from the Hämmerli AG (from the swiss car registry archives). It is for the Nissan Caball WLC 240, from August 1973 . It was the last one which i found homologated under the “Hämmerli” company:
However Datsun Switzerland homologated their first “Nissan” branded car / commercial vehicle (The Nissan Patrol LG60) in switzerland on the 12.10.1970
What i can say is that in the beginning, in the late 1970, the Fehlmann Motor group bought another company “Called P. Hodel Nutzfahrzeuge” in Glattbrugg and reopened it 1971 under the name “Belmot AG”.
This branch of the FMG Holding was responsible for the Commercial / Multi purpose vehicles on 1800m2 they sold the cars of the JEEP and Land-rover brand, but also the Nissan Patrol.
From the 1971 on, the Belmot AG was lead by Mr. Rudolf Werder:
In this (undated) swiss “Nissan Patrol” W LG 60 brochure, you can see at the bottom right that the car was Sold by the FMG Group subsidiary – Datsun (Suisse) SA – under the “Nissan” Patrol name. I think with the success and or / demand of the Nissan Patrol, they quickly expaned the business from the Belmot AG to also the Datsun Suisse SA, who most probably did the imports anyway as the NMC agent in switzerland. Even though officially in the beginning only the Belmot AG would sell the “Nissan” Patrol.
What happened in the years between 1973 and 1979 remains a bit unclear as i wasn’t able to find any information at all. Neither homologation documents, nor any sales brochures nor anything else.
For me there are two options:
1) They continued the parallel business from 1973 until Hämmerli handed over the Caball business to DSSA at the latest in 1979
2) DSSA took over the Hämmerli “Caball” Business in 1973 or one of the following years and integrated it in their standard car portfolio. This seams a bit unlikely since i wasn’t able to find any DSSA information or sales brochures of the caball from that time..
One small hand-written note by a journalist from 1979 states that Datsun (Suisse) SA had doubled their commercial vehicle sales to 380 in 1979, compared to 1978.
And here is a “Datsun Nutzfahrzeuge” (commercial vehicles) advertizing for the Homer E20 in an early 1979 “Schweizer Erziehungs Rundschau” Magazine. Funnily it still wears the Nissan “N” badge in the picture, despite beeing sold as a “Datsun”.
3. Badertscher Auto Center AG / Datsun Industriemaschinen AG
I’m not really sure about the background story here again, but a company called Badertscher Auto-center, located in Berne, got bought in 1980 by Silvio cereghetti of Datsun (Suisse) SA and renamed to Datsun Industriemaschinen AG. At the same point it also got relocated to the DSSA Headquarter in Urdorf. For me this doesn’t make a lot of sense but im sure there was a reason for it.
This was to add another business to the Portfolio: Industrial vehicles. not to be mixed with Commercial vehicles. Industrial vehicles was mainly forklifts and other industrial transport systems, while commercial vehicles where mainly transporter cars, pickups, smal busses, and multi-purpose vans.
That was the official start of the industrial vehicle (forklift) business for Datsun (Suisse) SA
They were an independant company, but also a direct subsidiary of DSSA, as seen here in the 1981 organigram. Until somewhere mid-1981 Beda Germann was responsible for the industrial machine business, while the commercial vehicles just was a part of the standard car business and never had it’s own organization or even company…
Mr. René Sägesser (formerly involved with toyota imports) replaced Mr. Germann on the 1st. of October 1981 and also took over the operative leadership when Beda Germann left the company under Mr. Botnar. Mr. Sägesser was now responsible for the business development of the commercial vehicle business and build-up of the still quite new Industrial-machine Forklift business, as below DSSA press release states. For me it seems that only from that point on the commercial and industrial vehicles got their own “product manager” putting som effort in selling those…
Here are some pictures of the same year 1981 Datsun full lineup catalogue with the commercial vehicles on the back (Datsun Homer, Urvan and Patrol), probably one of the first serious attempts to propell the sales of commercial vehicles.
The forklifts (from the “industrial machine” business) where shown on the same page.
Funnily the Patrol, which was previously sold as a “Nissan” Patrol, now is a “Datsun” Patrol, until the complete brand name changed to “Nissan” again only shortly thereafter.
From that point on, Datsun / Nissan Switzerland sold all kind of commercial vehicles, to which they counted the Urvan, Vanette, Homer, Cabster, King Cab, Pick-up, Patrol, and – of course – Nissan Forklifts In many cases they had special sales documentation and brochures for the commercial vehicles like the one shown here from march 1982:
here’s a closer look at the datsun Urvan pages, compared to a the ad a few pictures before, it now wears the correct “Datsun” Emblem on the front:
They also released some funky advertizing for the multi-purpose carrier “Homer”
When you flip through the pages, you always have the same base car (front cabin), but see the multiple rear carrier options, which is somehow a cool idea 🙂
Here are two more undated single page ads / spec sheets i found:
4. Nissan – Datsun – Nissan Patrol
A bit of a special role here is the Nissan Patrol. It was imported already from Summer 1973 under the “Nissan” Brand, as you can see in above homologation sheet. Unfortunately i don’t have any catalogue from that time…
It was also marketed as a “commercial” vehicle.
In the mid or late 70ies, the name was rebranded to the “Datsun Patrol” to align with the rest of the car lineup:
Only to be rebranded again to the “Nissan” Patrol around 1983 / 1984 with all the other cars changing from Datsun to Nissan too:
The above and below pages show the commercial vehicles of the 1984 Swiss Datsun Full Lineup catalogue, and you can see the Nissan/Datsun logo everywere for the transition time from Datsun to Nissan:
At some point the Industrial vehicles and Personal/commercial vehicle businesses got merged into Datsun (Suisse) SA or Nissan Motors (Schweiz) AG, but again it is not clear when exactly. ,What i can difenitely say is, that in the 1991 Nissan switzerland organigram, there is no more evidence of the Datsun Industriemaschinen AG. However this is a long time-span so it is not exactly clear when this happened.
Strangely the Datsun Industriemaschinen AG remained active under this name in the commercial register until it got liquidated in late 1996. Even though the vehicles got already sold under the Nissan brand from the early 80ies on, and even the catalogue from 1991 states that the commercial vehicles are sold by Nissan Motors (Schweiz) AG, the “Datsun” Industriemaschinen somehow remained active until 1996.
In the 1982 Datsun Switzerland image brochure, following pictures are shown, but i’m pretty shure they’re generic Nissan press photos and have nothing to do with Datsun in switzerland:
They come along a text promoting the first turbodiesel forklifts made by Nissan, and other advantages like low noise, more power and less fuel consumption:
Allthough the Commercial vehicle business was always only a small part of DSSA / NMC Switzerland, it was probably a solid and good add-on the the core-business (cars) and still remains today.
During my research for this story-part (in late 2021), this 1972 Caball LC 240 popped up for sale in a swiss online auction platform with the original swiss papers from 1972. It was sold quickly for cheap. Too bad i didn’t have the time and space for another project, this would for sure have been a fun little project….
In the next part of this installment, you can find all the Datsun (Suisse) SA pricelists from 1968 to 1979 and even download them in high resolution.
As with all my knowledge posts, i tried my best to get all information from trustworthy and official sources. However i can not guarantee that above information is 100% correct. If you have any correction, input or additional information, i appreciate if you let me know. I’ll update this post whenever i find something to add or change.
Also i put countless unpaid hours of research and work into this post and spent quite a bit of money to buy a lot of original documents, so please ask, before you copy anything, including the pictures. thanks!
Big Thanks to Marcel from the Bettelbrünneli Collection, Gerard from Zonedatsun, Heiko from Datsun.ch, Stefan from Cagedude, Lara from the Central Library of Zürich and the ETH Zürich team behind the E-Periodica Archives, Myrtha with her inside-knowlege and the historic Archive of the Verkehrshaus Luzern. Without all of you, this posts wouldn’t have been possible!
I also was in contact with some people at Nissan switzerland, but still waiting for some information until today. If i get anything, i will update these posts immediately.