Loud in a crowd: Nissan range gets grille makeover

Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:05pm EDT
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) is going for a facelift to stand out from the crowd.

In an increasingly competitive global market - in China alone there are some 80 automakers battling for sales - Nissan plans to put a V-shaped front grille design on most of its models to give itself a "distinct, unified face", says global design chief Shiro Nakamura.

"Before, we didn't really feel a pressing need for unified looks, but the number of brands is on the rise sharply in China, and there are simply too many different faces," Nakamura told Reuters in a recent interview. "Unless you unify your brand's looks across your whole portfolio ... you don't get noticed."

The V-shaped grille has a thick chrome bar that cuts into the bumper, with its two side lines sweeping upwards and integrating the hood and the headlamps.

"V-motion is a testament to our resolve to be loud with our visual presence. We realize we've been a bit too modest," Nakamura said, adding that while this is a global strategy for the Nissan brand, it's especially relevant in China.

The new design is also Nissan's response to competition from Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) - whose stable also includes Audi, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Porsche - which has been driving a more unified look across its mainstream VW, Skoda and Seat brands.

The German group's strategy has become a "new brand-management standard" for global automakers, said Nakamura, noting others, such as South Korea's Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS: Quote), were following suit.

"The whole global auto industry is being impacted by Volkswagen's strategy," he said. "Unless you match that, your brand identity gets watered down."   Continued...

A Nissan logo on the grill of the 2015 Nissan Murano is seen on display after it was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in New York City, April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar