Albaisa Talks Xmotion

One thing that is becoming rare is a fully realized concept car, as most OEMs are opting for something along the lines of “production intent.” Not Nissan. And the result is rather impressive.

At the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) Nissan revealed a C-SUV concept, the Xmotion (pronounced “cross motion”). The crossover is 180.7 inches long, 76.4 inches wide, 66.9 inches high, and rides on a 109.6-inch wheelbase. It seats six with three rows of side-by-side seats. It rides on 21-inch tires. Its visual presence is something that wouldn’t be out of place in Blade Runner 2049, but as we’ll see, there’s another cinematic referent for the concept. 

The sheet metal bodyside is massive, yet there are subtle deep draws that accentuate the surface (forms that maybe, just maybe could be released in production—but remember, the Xmotion is a concept). If you look carefully toward the top of the vehicle you’ll notice a hint of red showing up, accenting the pewter color of the body.

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And that hint gives way to a flood of the color when you open the suicide doors. Although some in the industry don’t like that term for vehicles that have no B-pillars and rear-hinged back doors, when we talk with Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan Senior Vice President for Global Design, about the Xmotion, he says, “It is based on Japanese design, but in a context that is Western. It is louder than Japanese. But that’s intentional.” He says it jokingly brings to mind Kill Bill, referencing the 2003 Tarantino martial arts movie that has more than a little red in its production. The West meets East, but in the case of the crossover, the execution is superb, not slicing.

And while on the topic of color, it is worth noting that the Xmotion received at NAIAS the prestigious EyesOn Design award (eyesondesign.org) in the “Innovative Use of Color, Graphics or Materials.” And it isn’t just the red, white and black colors that are used within the crossover. Consider, for example, the materials. There are carbon fiber and suede—printed and laser-etched—used throughout the cabin.

The center console is a massive wood assembly, based on the Japanese method of kanawa tsugi, which doesn’t use nails or glue yet is locked together. And the cedar used for the center console—the very same, as it is sourced from the same tree—is used for the instrument panel. (Actually, they wanted to respect resource use, so the wood is overlays, not solid blocks of the material.)

And then there are graphics.

One of the things that Nissan wanted to accomplish in the Xmotion is a mixing of classic Japanese design elements with advanced technology.

The screen of the instrument panel stretches across the top of the IP and is information intensive. “If you try to provide all of that information at full speed, at 100 percent, it would be overwhelming.”

So one of the things they did was add a bit of whimsical charm.

There is a fingerprint identification pad on the top of the center console. Once IDed, there is a visual startup sequence that brings up an animation of a koi fish displayed on the top surface of the console; this is meant to be the driver’s “virtual personal assistant.”

But the koi doesn’t remain on the console; it seems to “jump” to the main screen on top of the IP.

“I am not going to put a koi in every car,” Albaisa says, but explains that this light touch adds a bit of humanity into a highly technical arena.

“In Japan, we sell about 600,000 cars. We sell 5.9-million more everywhere else,” Albaisa says. “That’s the beauty of our brand. We can mix these influences.”