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Nissan design boss Nakamura expects Q30 to give Infiniti a big lift in Europe

Infiniti's forthcoming Q30, shown in concept form, will offer something unique in a crowded segment, design boss Nakamura says.
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Infiniti's forthcoming Q30 shares a crucial common trait with the successful first-generation Qashqai from parent Nissan: both models aim to provide something different in crowded segments, Nissan design boss Shiro Nakamura said. The Qashqai won sales by offering crossover looks and features in a segment dominated by hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf. Nakamura says the Q30 can do the same against competitors such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series. He explained why in an interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Claire Bal.

How will the new Infiniti Q30 stand out in a fast-growing segment that already includes models such as the Mercedes-Benz A class and CLA?

The Q30 is a very strategic model. It is sort of like Inifiniti's Qashqai because the Q30 is not a normal hatchback. We want to create a new unique concept. It's similar to the Qashqai from a strategic point of view because the premium segment is so dominated by the Germans, by sedans.

Creating our own image by going into the normal sedan area would be more difficult. It is a very competitive market. The strength of the Q30 is that it doesn't look like anything else. A class is A class, CLA is CLA, but Q30 is Q30. If you can buy similar things, people go to existing brands, that's why we want to create products that don't look like anything else. This is our strategy.

Nakamura: ''We are pioneers in the crossover segment.''

What makes Nissan's design unique?

In Europe in particular as well as globally, our strength is crossovers. The Qashqai and Juke really created the image of Nissan design. We are pioneers in the crossover segment.

Do you want Nissan to be recognized as a crossover brand?

Not necessarily. Crossovers are bold and innovative. With a normal sedan or hatchback it's not easy to create a new image, therefore we decided to create our brand image with crossovers. The hatchback and sedan segments are very crowded, while when we started [with the Qashqai and Juke] the crossover segments were not crowded, so we had a much greater opportunity to create a brand image by having a very strong crossover range.

Of course, we will not limit ourselves to just the crossover segments, we will bring new sedans and hatchbacks as well. Almost 10 years ago, we decided to create the crossovers as a way to take the brand in a new direction. Now we are happy, and our design is very clear, sporty and innovative.

Nissan has had some strong individual designs, such as the first-generation Micra, Qashqai and Juke, but has lacked a consistent overall look in its models to bring the entire range together. Does that need to change?

You are right, we had very strong individual models, however we don't necessarily think this is the best way to create a brand. Now, we still want to maintain the individuality, but we are shifting to a more family feeling. You can see it with the Qashqai. The front is sort of a brother to the X-Trail, but the Qashqai and X-Trail are still very different.

The Nissan Leaf has been called bland looking. Do you plan to make future Nissan EVs more appealing?

I understand that the Leaf is not as very unique looking. We wanted to make it more like a normal hatchback. Our first priority was to bring an EV to market, now we can make it more unique and more attractive. With the next generation we will have much more freedom. We have not finalized the design yet, but we have very interesting new proportions for EVs, you will see this at future auto shows. I cannot say a lot, but we want to be pioneers again.

Does Nissan have different design strategies for different markets?

No, we are making it more global. One design for everywhere.

Meet the design boss
Name: Shiro Nakamura
Title: Senior VP Design; Chief Creative Officer, Nissan
Age: 63
Main Challenge: Giving Nissan a common design language without losing the styling individually that made models such as the Juke a success.

What are the new trends in design?

Design is becoming more emotional and more expressive than functional. In addition, details, like the headlamps, are becoming much more elaborate.

How will the 22nd-century car look?

Probably in another 10 to 20 years we will have a very different attitude on design because of electric vehicles. We are already studying very different packaging. If you have a new technology, the design will be different. Electric cars definitely are pushing the design further.

Which competitors' designs do you admire the most?

Today, design competition is very tough, much tougher than before. I cannot say who I admire, but I can say that there are many strong designers.

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