TOKYO — Shiro Nakamura — the influential Nissan designer once dubbed the crossover king — couldn't have picked a better time to retire from the automaker in 2017.
It wrapped up a four-decade career of penning cars, capped by nearly 18 years leading design at Japan's No. 2 automaker. And one year later, Nissan's then-Chairman Carlos Ghosn — the man who poached Nakamura from Isuzu and gave him broad freedom at Nissan — was arrested, plunging the automaker into turmoil.
Nakamura has laid low since then, but the jazz-loving, mustachioed styling maestro is back in the game — at the age of 70. Still as spritely and energetic as ever, Nakamura is now leading two new design studios — one in Southern California, the other in a trendy Tokyo neighborhood.
He is busy with projects and even casting his creative gaze beyond automotive.
In his first interview since jumping back into the business, Nakamura told Automotive News he took his time in order to distance himself from his "Nissan guy" image and start afresh with new clients.
"I don't have to be Nissan's Nakamura. I want to be more independent as an individual," Nakamura said in a sitdown this month at his new studio in Tokyo's artsy Daikanyama district.
"Once I left, I wanted to be clearly leaving the company," he said. "Sometimes people stay as an adviser or something. But my true nature is as a designer, rather than a businessperson. So I would rather continue to be associated with automotive design than the company."