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Nissan’s head of design, Alfonso Albaisa, has seen it all.
A longtime Nissan veteran, Albaisa is a Cuban-American who lives in Tokyo full-time and leads a team of 700 designers worldwide.
He’s been involved with all major Nissan or Infiniti products lately — from the full-size Nissan Titan pickup to the otherworldly Nissan GT-R sports car, to the company’s first electric car, the Nissan Leaf and now the Ariya.
With the new electric vehicle Nissan Ariya, Albaisa believes the Japanese automaker is breaking new ground – with a new platform, new features and a new visual identity.
“It symbolizes the next step for us,” Albaisa said in an interview from the floor of the New York Auto show. “In my 34-year experience, it was unique in the sense that, at the very beginning, engineers were asking, ‘Where do you want major components?’ And that’s the promise of the new world, where you can literally move things around on this kind of ‘magic carpet’ platform.”
The “magic carpet” that Albaisa refers to is Nissan’s skateboard-like platform for its new electric vehicle, called the CMF-EV platform. The “skateboard” here is the flat chassis underneath, and the batteries are lined up between the axles, giving the platform a low centre of gravity. With electric motors on each axle, the car offers passengers more cabin space as well as more trunk storage.
“We figured out that by moving major components into the front of the car that we had this amazing open space, and naturally, because we’re a Japanese car company, you get these notions of Zen,” Albaisa says. “At the same time, we were dreaming of this Japanese futurism.”
The fit and finish of the materials in the cabin is impressive. Nissan has traditionally built cars that most people can afford, not luxury or performance cars.
But the Ariya has the kind of fit and finish found in a luxury car, like the Soft Touch materials and leather seats. The best feature of the interior is a seemingly dark, open-pore piece of wood combined with climate control, with illuminated capacitive haptic switches that vibrate when touched.
Albaisa says this reflects the company’s broader design philosophy. “So how do you express technology with heat? Because there’s a warmth to Japanese modernism,” says Albaisa. “Wood, when you turn on the car, all the lights go through the wood, which is nice, but then they become practical. That’s how wood comes to life.”
As for the car’s performance, the Ariya is designed to ride smoothly and delivers instant torque when needed, which is a hallmark of an electric powertrain, but it’s also surprisingly quiet inside.
Albaisa believes that even a mid-range car should have the refinement of a high-end car and, if possible, the materials of a high-end car. It’s about what designers and engineers are willing to compromise on in the name of an overall vision.
Albaisa says. “I think even in a minimalist environment … the way each thing plays a role in the totality, it was very carefully curated.”
In other news.
Volkswagen Group is often seen as a company that can rapidly increase sales of multi-brand battery electric vehicles and overtake Tesla in the BEV business. However, the company is struggling with semiconductor shortages and, more recently, wiring harness supply issues.
Affected by restrictive factors, the year-on-year growth rate of BEV sales of the Volkswagen Group was lower than that of Tesla, and even lower than the previous three quarters.
As a result, the difference between the two has widened to over 210,000 units. During this period, Tesla managed to produce and deliver more than three times as many electric vehicles, the highest level in quite some time.
- Tesla: 310,048 (up 68% year-over-year)
- Volkswagen Group: 99,100 (up 65.2% year-over-year) or 32% of Tesla’s result
- Difference: 148,800 (up 106% from 72,129)
- Tesla: 310,048 (up 68% year-over-year)
- BYD: 143,224 (up 271% year-over-year) or 46% of Tesla’s result
- Difference: 166,824 (up 14% from 146,278
Currently, all three have high growth potential – Tesla has just opened two new factories (in Germany and Texas), and the Volkswagen Group will gradually resolve parts supply issues and unlock full potential ( Western Europe alone has 300,000 BEV orders) . It goes without saying), while BYD aims to reach 600,000 by 2022 (maybe more).
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