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Tokyo show: Nissan goes own way with design

Family face: Within the Nissan portfolio, models will continue to have a different flavour, while retaining a clear connection with the brand.

Alliance brands to maintain distinct brand identities, says Nissan design chief

Nissan logo27 Oct 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON in TOKYO

NISSAN Motor Company senior vice-president of global design Alfonso Albaisa has promised that each brand under the newly formed Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance will continue to have distinctly different designs, despite the planned expansion of shared vehicle platforms.

Under the recently announced Alliance 2022 business plan, the three global brands, as well as some of their respective sub-brands, will share four common platforms, with more than nine million vehicles expected to be built on the shared underpinnings.

Speaking at the Tokyo motor show this week, Mr Albaisa said that while various models may have the same mechanicals under the skin, each brand appeals to a different set of buyers and this will be reflected in the design.

“It is kind of a chicken-and-egg question because in a sense the difference that we are giving is because we have an understanding that the customer for Renault is very different from the one for Nissan,” he said.

“So what came first? Did it come first that we got from our people in the field, our product planning people (determining) that this customer has this circumstance, please design a car for them.

“That link to people is so important. So maybe everything is super-important because then you need talented people that can really connect with the dream of those people and it (Nissan) is going to be very different to Renault.

“And especially Mitsubishi is joining the alliance, so the amount of commonality between cars is going to be huge.

“So we need to know who is buying a Nissan, who is buying Renault, who is buying a Mitsubishi. Then we must design a car that captures that dream and that dream should be different.”

Mr Albaisa confirmed that the chief designers of all three alliance brands share their plans regularly to ensure there is no overlap.

 center imageLeft: Nissan Motor Company senior vice-president of global design Alfonso Albaisa

“We have a function in the company where Laurens van den Acker (Renault) and Tsunehiro Kunimoto, head of design for Mitsubishi, we co-chair a monthly meeting where we review sketches, we review scale models, we review full-size models to make sure that our designs are not overlapping naturally,” he said.

“Because when you share a platform there is a tendency for the shapes to migrate when they cover engineering points and things like this. Not only we focus on the customer, being different, but then you make sure the hardware doesn’t end up putting us in a similar place.”

Mr Albaisa added that the company was also keen to ensure a differentiation of design of models within the Nissan portfolio, taking into account the different tastes and requirements of buyers.

“From day one of the alliance, they wanted us to make sure that the customer is the one we are going for. And the customer is not necessarily homogenous, so our line-up should have diversity.

“Cars like a Murano or something like that should feel different than a Pathfinder or Patrol.

“We need to respect that the car, the name, has a meaning and it has to be unique because it is identifying with a unique person. We need that. A Micra or something like that has a different urban chic spontaneous feeling which again is different than something like a Teana sedan which is more formal.

“What we find is that we need to find the areas where we can bring some sense of the company. The umbrella that makes it all trust which at the end is the brand. People buy into a company. This company has manufacturing technology and actual technology, so we need to make sure that is felt, but the car is unique.

“We are always trying to ensure the customer independence is expressed in the car. X-Trail to a Qashqai is a different person, they (the models) should be different.”

Mr Albaisa acknowledged that he had a challenge in ensuring Infiniti was the halo brand in the alliance, given the Nissan brand has its own iconic hero models.

“I think normally the premium brand has the ability to capture the stare of the art in the portfolio. We are a little bit unique in the sense that I think kids they love GT-R and they love Z and they love Jukes and they love these kinds of cars that are in the Nissan family,” he said.

“So we have to do something about that for Infiniti, because the premium brand, because they have the best budgets, they should be state of the art, they should be telegraphing what is possible with all of the skills and talents you have in the company. Infiniti needs to play that role more.

“But in our company we have cars that kind of do that in the main brand.

Because our main brand, the GT-R is not an easily affordable piece of hardware.

It is much more expensive than the most expensive Infiniti.

“So we have a unique situation in our company where state of the art is also expressed by main brand.”

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