"When we first learned about it we thought, 'We gotta buy this car. He'll never expect that. People will go nuts. How can you sell a car to a car company? We gotta jump on this,'" said Rob Robinson, Nissan, Social Communications.
Luke Aker of Orlando, Florida and owner of Ikonik Films, was behind the original video that listed his '96 Maxima for sale as "Luxury Defined." The spot, which poked fun at luxury automotive marketing, became a viral sensation after a friend of Aker posted the video to Reddit.
"I honestly didn't think it would do that well. I was thrilled with the 20,000 views I had within the first week. I was like, 'That's it. It's done. Let's do another video. Let's do it again,'" said Aker.
When Nissan contacted Aker, he thought it was a friend pulling a joke.
"I thought somebody was joking. I didn't really, but I was like, they couldn't really possibly follow through with this. Like why would they want one of their own vehicles, so that was a little surreal," said Aker.
Nissan bought the '96 Maxima from Aker in December 2013. Nissan also donated $1,000 to Aker's charity of choice, Wounded Warrior Project. Then, with an old car on their hands, the company reached out to its fans on social media for opinions on what to do next.
"We asked fans out on the web what we should do with the car, and so restoring it was one of the first things that came up," said Robinson.
The restoration process included mostly cosmetic changes like bodywork, new upholstery and carpeting. There was also some body and framework, plus a new set of brakes. The car was in the shop for about six months and, when finished, Robinson thought again, "We should have some more fun."
"Once we had it, we thought, 'Now what do we do?' We kicked around a lot of ideas, and ultimately the idea of restoring it and then coming back to Luke to work with us seemed like a great way to tie it all together," said Robinson.
"When Nissan came to me to do a second video, I wanted to do something that was different from the first one, but not so far that people would not feel familiar with it. And that was the important thing, to be entertaining," said Aker.