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CAR interviews Shiro Nakamura: Infiniti's future (2009)

Wed, 22 Jul 2009

By Tim Pollard

Motor Industry

22 July 2009 15:48

CAR recently had a one-to-one with Shiro Nakamura, design director for Nissan and Infiniti. We were talking about the new Infiniti Essence GT concept car fresh from its Geneva motor show debut – and Nakamura san was talking us around his latest creation. Read the full transcript below, as we cover everything from future Infiniti design, how new cars can look ecologically friendly and the DNA of Japanese car design.

Let’s start with the timeline of the Infiniti Essence. When did you decide to do it?

‘We gave it the go ahead in fall 2007. We knew that Infiniti’s 20th anniversary was coming and we wanted to show our future commitment as a premium brand. Infiniti started 20 years ago – that’s quite  a long time. The first few years were not as successful as we originally hoped. But then the new management came in, Carlos Ghosn and myself arrived, and we made a decision to make Infiniti a real premium brand. And so in Infiniti’s second decade we’ve added the G coupe, the FX and the EX. We continuously added to the line-up in the second decade and at the same time the design strategy became much clearer. We set our design direction. It’s clearly expressed in FX, and also G coupe.’

And what will happen in Infiniti’s third decade?

‘We are adding even more to the line-up than we have today. Unfortunately, I cannot say which type of cars are coming, but we are definitely expanding from where we are today. Particularly in Europe, it’s difficult to win. And globally, we are not really at the level we want to be.’

So why launch the Essence?

‘The Essence shows our commitment as a premium brand. The reason we have designed a big coupé is because it’s a symbol to express luxury and premiumness. It’s an affluent car. Our top end is currently the M sedan. The new M sedan comes at the end of 2009. The Essence is just a concept, we are not sure we are ready to build that type of vehicle yet. But it does show our future commitment. A coupé gives more freedom to express design and emotion – much better than a sedan.’

Where was the Infiniti Essence designed? Talk us through the geography of it…

‘The car was built and made in Japan. Most Infiniti cars have been designed in Japan. We are open to inspirations and creative ideas from our overseas studios. The original hint of the idea came from our California studio – not a full-size just a scale model, just a pure intention. After that we did the full-size model in Japan and the interior. But other hints of it came from our London studio.’

And remind me where the design base is in Japan

‘We are based in Atsugi, 50km out of Tokyo. But we always work as a global team.’

I love the details of the Essence. I was there when the covers came off in Geneva and I was impressed by how the grille was incorporated into the front of the car. Many grilles are stuck on as an afterthought – here it’s integral. And that kinked C-pillar is very distinctive!

‘The front end structure of the lamps and grille will influence future models. We want to translate the face into production. The C-pillar graphic is unique and we want that for future products too. The current production car programmes we are working on are definitely being influenced by the Essence.’

>> Click 'Next' for more of CAR's interview with Infiniti design boss Shiro Nakamura

By Tim Pollard