Nissan IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO. Click image to enlarge

Interview by Mark Stevenson, photos courtesy of Nissan Canada

At the Detroit Auto Show, we had a chance to get some one-on-one time with Shiro Nakamura, Chief Creative Officer (read: head of design) for Nissan. In addition to being responsible for Nissan’s latest concept – the Sport Sedan Concept – Shiro takes pride in his twin creations, the IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO.

And guess what? He loves the 510 just as much as we do.

We sat down with Shiro and discussed all three concepts on display at Nissan’s show stand in Detroit.

Mark Stevenson: What new challenges did you face bringing outsiders into the design process for the IDx concepts? It took a very different path…

Shiro Nakamura: Well, I think it’s not really a challenge. Actually, we always invite customers to give us their comments on what they are looking for. Listening to the customer but creating [the design] by ourselves is quite normal. In this case it was more open than normal, but to me it wasn’t a different approach.

MS: Did the 510 homage idea come from the Nissan side or the customer side?

SN: I think it came from both sides. We have a number of designers that love the 510. They love it. They [design] their own even when we don’t ask [them to]. And people outside the company like it too. It’s hard to say where [the idea] started.

MS: Moving on to the Sport Sedan Concept, we are starting to see a design language from Nissan where we may not have seen a cohesive design in the past. How do you balance having a design language for a brand and still give each model a unique identity?

SN: Exactly. Even the new Rogue has a very strong emotion. It’s just not as obvious as the Sport Sedan Concept. Many design elements are the same, just not as expressed [on some models compared to others] as clearly. Therefore, people don’t see this cool element. That’s why we design it more clearly on a couple of our Nissan models. This Sport Sedan Concept is our top model – except for GT-R – as our D-segment model. Same with the Resonance concept, our D-segment crossover. They receive the strongest levels of design because they are at the top of the range. At the same time, we don’t want the same shape from small car to big car to crossover to sedan. I don’t want. People don’t want. We have such a broad range of customers and we don’t want to create just one design then make them big and small, short and tall.

However, we need to show ‘Where is our core?’ If you have a strong main expression, you will see the centre of Nissan design. So far, it’s hard to tell which model is expressing core Nissan design.

MS: Especially when you have Juke and Cube, which are so far away from this new Nissan design…

SN: Yes. So therefore, it’s hard to say where is the centre. But, we still want to keep the Juke as the Juke. If the Juke was a smaller Rogue, I don’t think people would like it.

MS: In the past, many Japanese cars have been named after positions of power – Prince, President, Crown. Do you think the younger Japanese generation would aspire to own cars with images of power?

SN: No, I don’t think so. Prince’s name is not the name of a prince. People don’t associate the name Prince in this way. The President is for old people. Same with Crown. It’s an older people’s car.

By the way, Skyline came from Prince – it was the Prince Skyline.

Nissan IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO. Click image to enlarge

MS: What are your favourite elements of the Sport Sedan Concept?

SN: This view (we were looking at the ¾ view) is the best view of this car. The boomerang headlamp is connected to the grille and transfers that emotion from the front to the side. It flows into the lines and into the kicked up C-pillar and floating roof. I think this combination of elements – front, side, and pillar – makes a very strong flow.

Compare this to the GT-R, even the front grille shape is similar; the shape of the hood is similar. I think the Sport Sedan Concept connects the GT-R with the rest of the lineup. That is another allure of this car.

MS: Would you say that was the main goal of this car? What was the main goal of this car from a design perspective?

SN: This car is the top end of the Nissan lineup, except for GT-R, and design wise this needs to be a symbol for what Nissan design can achieve.

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