The automaker is testing a new product development method to reinvent their vehicle design process.
What you see above are the two most important cars revealed in 2013. I’m confident in saying that because it appears Nissan have achieved in reality what many believe to be a mythical dream. That being producing a seriously well considered and designed product based on customer input. There aren’t a lot of specifics as to how Nissan did this based on the content of the press release. What we do know is the twin concepts IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO are the results of a product development method Nissan is calling ‘co-creation’. They started with a simple enough goal:
Two very different Nissan concepts, built on the same architecture, demonstrate how co-creation can challenge the conventions of car design.
What are those conventions of car design? Nissan has not commented specifically but their aim with these concepts was to offer a new take on authenticity. Some in the automotive industry like Chris Bangle who once headed design at BMW, say that car design is lacking real innovation and is in a period of derivative and stale styling. It may be a consequence from looking inward too much at the industry’s glory days of the 50’s and 60’s or at the idealized customer profiles which inform the design of vehicles no real person can relate to.
Nissan instead focused their attention on a customer segment they refer to as “digital natives,” essentially GenX, GenY and Millennials. The list of wants isn’t that surprising to anyone belonging to those age groups; simplicity, adaptable and free from a design legacy. For most automakers currently obsessed with feature packing, these criteria would have resulted in months of head scratching. Nissan designers on the other hand, started with the back-to-basics idea of creating a flexible box. This box contains three compartments, engine, passenger and cargo areas which you can see and understand visually from the exterior.
With the foundations of the design sorted, attention turned to creating opportunities for distinct exterior styling personalities. The part lines, or gaps between the body panels were used to break the IDx into four basic components, body sides, top, front and rear ends. these components could then be altered in shape, detail and color to reflect the desired character of the vehicle. For the IDx Freeflow model, the elements were kept simple and clean. The IDx NISMO on the other hand incorporates more performance oriented shapes, components and graphics to communicate its function as a car designed for use on a racetrack.
These are genuinely fresh concepts resulting from leap of faith thinking. But they aren’t totally divorced from an element of heritage. Nissan has revived Datsun for use as an entry level brand. The IDx Freeflow and IDx NISMO appear to pull inspiration from 70’s Datsun 510’s and econo box race cars of that era. These concepts aren’t at all retro in the same styling way that the MINI is. There’s more substance here in the way they do try to interpret values from the past in a modern way. There’s a hint of this from Nissan in the way they describe how the names were chosen:
“ID” is the acronym taken from “identification”, relating to the things all individuals relate to on a personal level in a car, and the “x,” which is the variable representing the new values and dreams born through communication.
Here’s a few highlights of each of the concepts:
Exterior design aims to be clean and simple. The paint scheme was selected to convey a sophisticated yet casual feeling and was inspired by fashion, a white t-shirt and khaki chinos, highlighted with silver accessories or a belt.
The interior was designed to be a cozy environment mixing old and new. The seats are covered in faded denim to reflect a ‘back-to-basics charm’. A no-nonsense approach was taken to the design of the steering wheel made to look like a vintage wood and metal version but with modern materials. Care was taken to balance digital displays with an analog speedometer.
The exterior design modernized elements of classic box-type racecars of the 70’s. The front end features a re-imagined chin spoiler and reverse slanted nose. Exposed fastener holes on each of the side fenders communicate that parts could be easily swapped if they suffered raging damage.
The interior, while stripped back, isn’t as spartan as a real racecar would be to save weight. The steering wheel and gauges have a more component feel and the dash and center console are made to look like folded sheet metal similar to what would be found in a purpose built racer.
There’s no confirmation that Nissan intends to put either of these concepts into production. The press release seems to indicate some seriousness with pursuing co-creation as a method of product development at Nissan. “The two show cars give a glimpse of how co-creation can generate completely different solutions depending on the theme and participants, while building off the same base. This is a flexible platform that allows diverse customers to contribute their ideas and realize their ideals, thanks to its relative simplicity and solid performance.” Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer, sees the potential:
Nissan is recognized as a true pioneer in automotive design and is still creating whole new product genres. By reaching out to digital natives as collaborators in our vehicle design, we are looking to the future. They sense the purity of Nissan’s history and how the value we create transcends the times.