In conversation with our sister publication, Autocar UK, Mamoru Aoki spoke about the Nissan Leaf. He says that the car will be the breakthrough model that makes battery-electric vehicles truly mainstream. Straight from Nissan’s design centre in London, Aoki said, “Of course, we have the new Leaf but I think the [production version of the] IMx concept will become a breakthrough model.”
The IMx concept made its debut at the Tokyo show, last October. It promised a 612km range on a single charge and a dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrain with a proposed 435hp and 700Nm of torque. Nissan also says that the IMx will feature the next generation of its autonomous ProPilot technology. “The IMx is not just a concept car. In a few years, it will appear [in production],” Aoki said, hinting that it could do for Nissan what the first Qashqai crossover did when it was launched in 2007.
Aoiki pointed out that the overall cabin concept reflects Japanese architecture and interior design, because traditional Japanese houses are tiny and some rooms have to be multi-purpose in their usage. “The interior is notably bigger than with a conventional vehicle and there’s much more usable space thanks to the totally flat floor allowed by the [under-floor] battery pack," he goes on to say. "The dashboard is also pushed right back [towards the windscreen] because the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-con] unit is under the bonnet.”
Aoki was also keen to mention that the unusual interior trim in the IMx is an alternating laminate of wood and translucent plastic that can be illuminated from behind – a hint, perhaps, that this clever finish is heading for production.
The Design Europe boss mentioned that the exterior of the IMx is meant to be a clear indicator of Nissan’s next-generation design language. The intention is to be closer to the company’s Japanese roots. He said the IMx does “not have a masculine look or a heavy appearance” of the type that is now commonly seen in the mainstream combustion-engine vehicles. “It has a light feel and sheer surfaces,” he said. “The exterior is very Japanese in its details – expressive but with purity and an expensive feeling.”
Mamoru Aoki has been in charge of Nissan’s Paddington studio for only a few months. He joined Nissan in 1989 and oversaw the design of three Infiniti models, as well as the original 350Z sports car. The first car he was entirely responsible for in his career was the highly regarded Primera Mk1.
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