Trio Of Concepts Explores Japanese Design At The Detroit Auto Show

Trio Of Concepts Explores Japanese Design At The Detroit Auto Show
Automotive

Traditional Japanese crafts find new applications in vehicle concepts at the 2018 North American International Auto Show

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 18 january 2018

The 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit hosted a shorter than usual docket of manufacturer reveals—just half a day instead of nearly two full days like in years past. This resulted in a smaller selection of concept vehicles, which tend to generate the most buzz around auto shows. Still, there were a few design concepts introduced, the majority of them coming from Nissan.

INFINITI Q-Inspiration Concept

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INFINITI is taking steps to energize the brand’s design language with the Q-Inspiration Concept. The July 2017 hiring of former BMW Design Director Karim Habib as Head of INFINITI Design is evident. The Q-Inspiration bears simplified lines and surfaces projecting the premium perception the brand should have. The car is a sedan with a stretched-out cabin, giving it a coupe appearance in the back. This has been a trend in car design for a few years now.

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There aren’t any excessive styling indulgences in the rear. The slim taillights have a bit of the flavor of the current Porsche Panamera. The lower exhaust openings look oddly wide in photos making the back look a tad tail-heavy. INFINITI debuted the Q-Inspiration with a new variable valve engine technology, to which the openings on its body likely allude. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa said INFINITI will be all electric in 2021, so it will probably not have exhaust pipes after all.

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The interior is pretty standard minimalist car concept fare. Some of the material choices are uniquely Japanese, including Kabazakura wood used on the dash, which is a flowering tree native to Japan. Some interior surfaces are lined with a Nishijin-ori fabric from Kyoto, made from golden washi paper shreds woven with silk threads.

Lexus LF-1 Limitless Concept

Luxury crossovers are an enormously popular segment, and Lexus lays claim to starting it with the RX 300 twenty years ago. The LF-1 Limitless is a design concept exploring a possible flagship crossover. It’s flexible enough that it could be powered by hydrogen, electricity or petrol, hence the ‘Limitless’ name. The design aesthetic developed by Toyota’s Calty Studios in Southern California is called ‘molten katana.’ It is described as “organic shapes of liquid metal with the sharp edges of a traditional Japanese sword.”

Two design elements stand out on the LF-1. The first is the extremely long hood and pulled-back windshield, which are quite different for a crossover. Typically, the longer the distance from the front wheel to the bottom of the windshield, the more luxury the perception will be. Second is the ever growing Lexus spindle grille. On the LF-1 it takes over almost the entire front end and looks quite severe in the way it integrates with the rest of the vehicle.

The interior is another minimalist affair awash in white leather with rose-gold accents. One unique feature is a ‘four-dimensional navigation system’ that monitors time along a drive route. A virtual concierge can anticipate the needs of passengers along a trip and suggest fuel stops, food and rest breaks, and make hotel reservations while the drive is in progress.

Nissan Xmotion Concept

Nissan previewed the future of a possible compact SUV with the Xmotion (pronounced “cross motion”) concept. Nissan acknowledges that the SUV is an American invention, and the Xmotion aims to be a distinctly Japanese interpretation of the vehicle type. The exterior design represents the theme “purposeful strength” through blocky, angular shapes. The exterior is meant to look like an outer shell of armor that protects the interior cabin.

The tail-light design on the Xmotion is inspired by traditional Japanese lattice woodworking called kumiko. In this application, the pattern formed by the lights is an illusion created with holograms.

The interior of the Xmotion shows the strongest influence of Japanese aesthetics. The floor of the cabin is an interpretation of a river, with a center console ‘wooden bridge’ stretching from front to back. Nissan designers integrated modern takes of traditional Japanese wood joinery called kanawa tsugi, typically found in temples and shrines. The joining technique uses no nails or glue to hold parts together and was used to make the dashboard and center console.

Inhabiting the digital screens inside the Xmotion is a virtual Japanese koi fish that serves as a personal assistant. The koi moves from screen to screen and in autonomous driving mode, communicates updated route information and points of interest along the way.

North American International Auto Show

The 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit hosted a shorter than usual docket of manufacturer reveals—just half a day instead of nearly two full days like in years past. This resulted in a smaller selection of concept vehicles, which tend to generate the most buzz around auto shows. Still, there were a few design concepts introduced, the majority of them coming from Nissan.

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+toyota
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