Nissan firmly believes that a five-seat configuration is the right format for a compact minivan in Europe.
The Japanese version of Nissan's Tino can accommodate six people, with the seat layout split evenly - three in the front and three in the back. But Nissan decided to alter the Japanese format and offer a five-seat layout for European customers.
Nissan conducted extensive research into how the Tino was to be used by potential buyers. It undertook close studies in each of the seven European markets where its distributor is factory owned. Nissan looked in particular at the needs of families with young children.
Nissan concluded that the benefits of the seven-seat format were minimal.
'It is a nice flexibility to have, but it is an expensive flexibility,' said Lindsay Watson, who was project manager for the Tino in Europe.
The exterior of the Tino was developed in conjunction with Nissan's styling studios in Munich and Japan, and the silhouette of the car is similar to the Japanese version.
But the engines, track and interior differ. In addition, most of the non-Japanese Tino's components are sourced in Europe.
Four engine options eventually will be available in Europe: a 1.8-liter gasoline engine shared with the Almera and Primera; a 2.0-litre gasoline engine shared with the Primera; and a 2.2-liter turbodiesel shared with the Almera.
A 1.6-liter gasoline engine will be introduced in spring 2001.
But the biggest differences between the European and Japanese Tinos are inside the car.
To obtain the higher driving position that European minivan drivers prefer, Nissan raised the Tino's front seats by just under 150mm in the European version. The rear seats were also raised -by just over 200mm.
This gives children a better view through the front windscreen and side windows, said Watson.
'The last thing you want on a long journey is your child being bored,' he added.
Nissan also made the front seat backs narrower, so that children in the rear seats would not feel isolated.
The center console was kept low so that it would be easier to pass objects such as drinks cartons and snacks from front- to rear-seat passengers.
Nissan put removable plastic boxes under the rear seats, again with children in mind. They are intended to be used as individual storage areas.
'You can put toys, coloring books and crayons in them. Children can take their objects into the house and then bring them back out to the car,' said Watson. 'They have their own little storage areas.'
There are also flip-down tables on the backs of the front seats, similar to those on the backs of aircraft seats.
Front-seat passengers also get extra storage space under their seats for such things as spare pairs of shoes and personal accessories.
Traditional Nissan policy has been to not outsource major modules such as cockpits or door modules. The Tino does not break with that tradition, although Nissan has signaled that future models will be more modular.
However, Nissan did give out a lot of the detailed development responsibility to suppliers.
'The suppliers are the component experts and we use their expertise wherever possible,' said Watson.
Between 80 and 100 suppliers in system areas such as brakes, steering, interior and major components were involved in the concept definition of the Tino with Nissan.
The Tino is built in Spain at Nissan's Barcelona plant. Watson said Trety, which supplies the parcel shelf, and Esteban Ikeda, the local seating supplier, had been particularly innovative.
Visteon's acquisition of Plastic Omnium's instrument panel business added new ideas during the development process, said Watson.
Left-hand-drive versions of the Tino are built only in Europe.
Very few parts are brought in from Japan, and about 85 percent of components under the skin are essentially shared with the Almera that is produced in Sunderland, England, said Watson.
The total development budget for the Nissan Tino was E180 million.