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Just a co-incidence

Similar: Renault's Megane (left) and Nissan's Tiida (right).

Nissan styling chief argues that design similarities with Renault are coincidental

Nissan logo24 May 2006

NISSAN’S global head of design has denied that the Nissan-Renault alliance is producing vehicles that are too similar, claiming the close design connection between the two brands was a coincidence.

Despite an "East meets West" synergy in backroom operations, senior vice-president and chief creative officer Shiro Nakamura insisted that that was where the sharing stopped.

Aware of criticism that some Nissan passenger cars looked remarkably similar to Renault vehicles, the high-ranking executive claimed there was no crossover of design language between the Japanese and French brands.

"We are totally separate," he said. "Patrick le Quement (senior vice-president of Renault design) and myself have totally separate responsibilities each for Renault and Nissan.

"There’s no interference with design direction. But at the same time we have a very good relationship."Because of a perception that their designs were too similar, Mr Nakamura said both design departments met twice a year to share their future vehicle designs.

Despite this he is aware of the criticism that some Renault and Nissan products look too similar, such as the current Megane and Tiida which are based off the same platform.

"But even before our alliance the previous generation Primera and previous generation Megane were almost identical," he said.

He confessed that this was a shock, particularly given the fact that it had happened before the alliance was announced.

"I don’t know why but Renault and Nissan had very similar philosophies," he said. "That’s why we decided, okay, let’s show everything.

"Because there was no connection with Renault and Nissan, but coincidentally our ideas were so close."Mr Nakamura said there was still some design "proximities" between the pair, but overall Nissan design was distinct from Renault.

"We have a very good relationship with Renault but they accept what we do andwe accept what they do." He said the only exchanges between the companies involved technology.

"We buy new technologies together with Renault Design because we can getit cheaper," he said. Also, because Nissan’s clay modelling skills were better, it often sent modellers to Europe to teach Renault.

"And Renault IT is better than Nissan. They are more advanced," he said. "Wesend our IT guys to Renault to learn and bring back new technologies. They are the sort of synergies we push, but we cannot exchange design."Nissan’s design team has grown from seven people in 1954 to 1000 designers working in eight studios around the world today. Mr Nakamura said all of Nissan’s designers were exposed to a clear design philosophy.

"If we don’t have a clear goal it’s difficult to co-ordinate these people," he said.

Mr Nakamura said that because Nissan had more than 60 models globally, from light cars right through to luxury 4WDs, incorporating Nissan branding in each vehicle’s design was a challenge.

However, he believes the common, often intangible, thread between all products – Nissan’s DNA – could be described as being refined, clean, iconic, simple, fresh and maintaining a link to the past, while pointing to the future.

With Mr Nakamura at the helm Nissan’s "brand image" has improved over the past five years, with a distinctive corporate "look" starting to flow through to specific models, like the luxury Infiniti nameplate and the four-wheel drive line-up, which now has a distinct Nissan face and strong, athletic design cues.

"I’m still not satisfied but at least it’s progressing," he said.

He believes it is easier to impart this brand image on the truck range ratherthan the passenger car range, which must cover a broader buyer range from cars like the Pivo concept, right through to the GT-R.

Conceding that it was difficult to have a common design element running through such a diverse passenger car line-up, Mr Nakamura also identified "brand personality" as a common thread between the models.

And the future? Now that Nissan has a more defined brand image and stronger identity, Mr Nakamura believes improving cabin quality, in both look and materials is a priority.

"That’s the next step."

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