Designing cars in China: Can Nissan give "daqi" global appeal?

Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:41pm EDT
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co. plans to start selling more China-inspired cars around the world, its design chiefs said, a nod to the growing importance of China's auto market and the country's up-and-coming design talent.

Staff at the Japanese automaker's new design center in Beijing will attempt to export homegrown concepts like "daqi" - the hard-to-define sense of style and road "presence" that Chinese buyers look for in a vehicle.

It's quite a shift from the days when the focus of global auto companies in China was solely on producing vehicles aimed at the domestic market, while Chinese car makers were often accused of simply copying foreign designs.

"Nissan Design China isn't for China," Nissan's global design chief Shiro Nakamura said this week, showing off a newly completed studio opened in Beijing earlier this year.

Its task, Nakamura said, is to become an incubator of styling ideas that help expand the "bandwidth" of Nissan's design expressions and "come up with China-inspired products that have a global appeal".

Nakamura said Nissan is two years away from launching a global car, styled primarily by the mostly Chinese staff at its Beijing studio, that will be sold in North America and Europe as well as Asia.

"We want our China studio to expand the bandwidth of design expressions," with which Nissan tries to differentiate itself as a global Japanese brand, he said. "If you do all the design in Japan, the depth and width of expressions tends to become narrow."

GLOBAL APPEAL   Continued...

Nissan Motor Co's logo is pictured at the company headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao