It's been four decades since this design studio opened its doors.
At a time when automakers have a global presence, it's important to remember it didn't always work as such. Although they sold vehicles in countries outside of their home markets, overseas automakers didn't always have major design studios in the US. Typically, design and engineering duties were assigned to their local teams, but 40 years ago Nissan made a bold move that continues to pay huge dividends.
Nissan Design Academy (NDA) opened its doors in San Diego, California in 1979 and over the past four decades, it has contributed to the design of about 20 concept vehicles and 30 production models. Among the latter include the original 1986 Pathfinder, 1999 Xterra, 2003 350Z, 2009 370Z, and even early design work for today's GT-R. Other notable and recent designs include the 2014 Murano, 2019 Altima, and the just-unveiled 2020 Sentra.
"As we celebrate the 40 years of Nissan Design America, I see the continuation of diverse talent and extraordinary leadership that will shape exciting design, and groundbreaking user experience concepts, for Nissan and Infiniti in the years to come," said Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan senior vice president for Global Design.
The success of NDA convinced Nissan to open additional design studios outside of Japan, including in London, China, South Asia, Brazil, and India. Nissan is currently launching a new product blitz with the most recent example being the new Sentra.
Compared to its immediate predecessor, the new subcompact sedan is far more stylish inside and out. Instead of a basic economy car, the redesigned Sentra looks more premium with its edgier design and wider and lowered stance. Given that the Sentra was designed mainly for American buyers, it makes complete sense NDA be assigned its design duties.
And who could forget the original Xterra SUV. With its back-to-basics approach, the Xterra looked great and was the right vehicle at the right time. It's a shame it's since been discontinued. And there's yet another recent model NDA handled, the 2020 Titan and Titan XD full-size pickup trucks. A proper pickup truck for Americans needs to be designed in America.