Nissan Ariya Inspired By Japan's Chaos And Harmony

Design / 2 Comments

No, we don't speak designer either.

Last week at the 2022 New York Auto Show, we sat down with Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan's senior vice president of global design. A day later, he won Newsweek's prestigious auto disruptor of the year award in the design category.

Out of all the people available to interview at Nissan, we chose Albaisa purely because we wanted to know more about EV design. Traditionally, new ICE models are designed within specific rules and limitations. A new Pathfinder's exterior has to fit around all the mechanical bits, and it has to incorporate all the design elements of an SUV.

But what happens when you have a brand-new name and a more adaptable EV skateboard platform to work with?

Where did the inspiration for the Nissan Ariya come from, for example? "It's hard to narrow it down. It was much more of a blank canvas than the Leaf, our first-generation EV," said Albaisa.

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"We started four years ago with Ariya, and a few things were happening around that time. We were essentially looking for the soul of our company."

To find the soul of the company, Albaisa had to turn to its home. Japan inspired the Ariya. Albaisa went to art school in New York and thought it was the center of the world, but Nissan sent him on his first work trip as a young designer to Tokyo in 1989.

"The city was alive. So much color, people, harmony, chaos, and I really felt that to be Japanese was all of these things. Therefore, the Ariya needed to embody all of these things," said Albaisa.

"All of our cars, whether it be the Z or the Pathfinder, have to have a little piece of Japan in them, but the Ariya is full-on Japan. It also has to be fun and charming," said Albaisa.

He then gave us a personal tour around the car, with a specific focus on the interior.

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At first glance, it's just like any other modern car interior. You get a substantial digital instrument cluster and infotainment display inherited from previous generation luxury cars. But look closer, and you'll note the bronze strip that runs from left to right. This color is subtly incorporated into other features as well.

The best part is that you can't see any buttons (apart from one or two required by law) until you switch the car on. Once you push the start button, the faux wood trim comes alive with haptic feedback touch controls.

"The irony of the satirical nature of Japanese design," said Albaisa, pointing to the "buttons" within the wood. "It's an old-school element, updated with modern technology."

On the topic of going EV, we have some bad news for all the ICE lovers out there. Albaisa also mentioned that he's looking forward to incorporating EV elements into legacy models. And yes, that means cars like the Pathfinder, Frontier, and even the Z. With the way EV is growing, we wouldn't be surprised if this new Z was the last one driven by internal combustion.

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