At a conference, Satoru Tai, Executive Director of Design at Nissan, discussed his vision of the future 100% electric vehicles and the Japanese automaker’s new design direction.
Why this new design orientation at Nissan ?
Satoru Tai: “The Ariya Concept is one of the design icons of the Nissan Intelligent Mobility. With the IMk (Key-car) concept, it highlights the wide range of Nissan’s intelligent mobility landscape, from small urban vehicles to compact, family-sized SUVs. They both express the connectivity and orientation of vehicles to the driving delegation of the coming era, each in their own way. »
What are the key points of the new design language ?
Satoru Tai: “Nissan’s new philosophy is based on a minimal Japanese approach. It focuses on cutting-edge technology that fits perfectly into the customer’s lifestyle. These are the key elements that we call “Timeless Japanese Futurism”. This minimal approach refers mainly to physical fitness – such as the simple external shape that minimizes the drag coefficient. These rather smooth expressions show the potential of electric vehicles and future autonomous driving technology in a typically Japanese way. “Timeless Japanese Futurism” is a way to preserve a traditional and emblematic Japanese flavor, reinterpreted with a refreshing perspective. »
Can you give us some examples ?
Satoru Tai: “The Ariya concept has a Japanese DNA, or “J-DNA”. These include transitional trends (utsuroi), a certain ‘chic’ (iki), and openings that I would describe as spatio-temporal, not to mention audacity (kabuku). For the Ariya Concept, we have incorporated a “kumiko” geometric pattern into the soft-nose. This trend is also reflected in the interior, with specific ambient lighting. »
Why is this “Japanese minimalist” feature so important ?
Satoru Tai: “We had to change the way we design vehicles, because the way they are powered and used has changed. Electric technology is present and the whole state of mind, from architecture to noise, is very different from that of a thermal vehicle, electric vehicles are silent but also powerful, which is why we wanted to reflect in our vehicles this new language of clean and minimal design, while remaining in the universe of emotion, power and attractiveness. Not to mention elegance. It is not easy to represent an entirely new automotive movement with something visually simple. »
What in particular did you focus on ?
Satoru Tai: “The potential of 100% electric platforms has led us to adapt the design to this unique new architecture. How to highlight the proportions ? For the Ariya Concept, we started with a slightly elevated posture and a design that expresses movement with a vehicle sitting well on its large wheels. The roof arches highlighted with satin-finish copper highlight an airy interior to create something radically different from traditional SUVs. The Ariya Concept’s 100% electric platform makes it possible to offer D-segment space in a C-segment vehicle. Aesthetically speaking, a conventional grille is no longer necessary for cooling, but a soft-nose remains so to protect the technology hidden inside, including radar, cameras and other sensors. The new grille then incorporates the illuminated Nissan logo in the centre. The lower part is lined with subtle lighting and the shield is the face of the vehicle. He must demonstrate strength, style and inspiration. »
What about the materials used on board ?
Satoru Tai: “Designers are always looking for new materials and textures to make interiors attractive and pleasant. We have used materials that give the impression of being solid, high-tech and functional. All this combined with new colours. For example, copper tones are used, adding brightness to the interior and enhancing the impression of quality. Copper has been an important element of traditional Japanese culture, in which craftsmen have transformed metal into functional works of art. We have carefully retained the use of copper to add emotional value that communicates the dawn of a new automotive era, rather than simply using expensive materials or shiny textiles. »
What about the new 100% electric platform of the Nissan Ariya Concept ?
Satoru Tai: “This platform allows the Ariya Concept to have a flat floor. The result is an extremely efficient architecture, with more foot space and a slimmer dashboard and seats. However, because of this open floor, all interior materials are much more visible. Traditionally, the floor is hidden by shadows and overhanging interior elements. Now, each design element is highlighted, especially the dashboard and seats. It was therefore essential to use complementary materials and colours. »
Was the Ariya concept close to production designed for fully autonomous driving ?
Satoru Tai: “We must always keep in mind the delegation of driving today for a wider use of autonomous driving in the near future. The Ariya concept was designed with the latest driver assistance system “ProPILOT 2.0” which allows, in some cases, driving without intervention. In these situations, you can relax and enjoy the benefits of the new interior architecture of electric vehicles. The latter provides a new spatial experience, enhanced by interior lighting down to floor level. This is not only an attractive design element, but also an effective demonstration of on-board friendliness. »
What do you want people to remember about this concept ?
Satoru Tai: “The Ariya Concept integrates Japanese DNA touches with its minimal approach to surfaces and shape, while being at the forefront of technology. This is the concept of “Timeless Japanese Futurism”. The minimal word goes without saying, but the word “transparent” goes further. It has both a physical quality, such as flush exterior door handles and seamless panel transitions, as well as a spiritual quality, as it expresses both Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology and Japanese precision and know-how. Together, they will define the future of Nissan’s design. »