MONACO – As Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Nissan Motor Company, Shiro Nakamura manages the global design strategies across both Nissan and INFINITI, leading a team of more than 800 people worldwide. Joining Nissan in 1999, he has overseen the design and development of some of INFINITI’s most iconic production and concept vehicles, work which saw him receive Eyes On Design’s ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 2010, and be named as number four in Fast Company magazine’s ‘Most Creative People’ list the same year.
Here Shiro tells us about his love of F1, what inspires his car designs, and collaborating with Sebastian Vettel on the soon-to-be-launched INFINITI FX Sebastian Vettel Version
Q1: Hi, Shiro, we are talking to you at the Monaco Grand Prix. Clearly you are very interested in Formula 1, but perhaps your interest lies in a different direction to the average race fan! What aspects of the race weekend interest you particularly?
Nakamura: I'd say two aspects. The first is the fact that Formula One is very much about being the best of the best, with no compromise. There’s lots of passion and energy involved within the sport, and this mindset is very inspiring. The second aspect is the actual design of the racing cars – you can see in the shape, form and aerodynamics of the vehicles that there’s lots of new ideas everywhere, with fresh initiatives forever being introduced. This is very exciting and fascinating to me in my line of work.
Q2: We’ve heard that, as INFINITI’s partnership with Red Bull Racing develops, there may be the potential for technological collaboration. Can you give us an update on what form this might take?
Nakamura: We are a partner to Red Bull Racing, not a sponsor, and as such we both want to mutually inspire each other. We give the team some of our battery technology, and we have seen, through the collaboration with Sebastian Vettel, how the partnership has influenced a physical, road-going INFINITI product. There are a lot more opportunities for us to work together – it’s an exciting union between two parties who have a lot in common, and I look forward to what the future may bring.
Q3: As you mentioned, you collaborated with Sebastian to create the INFINITI FX Sebastian Vettel Version, which will be available as a limited edition production model next year. What particular influence did Sebastian have on the design of the car? What was it like working with him, someone who is at the top of a very competitive field?
Nakamura: I first met Sebastian one and a half years ago at the Geneva Motor Show and it was a very nice initial meeting. He is a friendly person, and our relationship got off to a really smooth start as there was a common understanding of the project between us – he understood what we wanted to do, but he had his own ideas too. He is a very smart guy and he very much wanted to design the car with the customer’s needs and comforts in mind. I wasn’t sure beforehand how it would go, but it’s all been very smooth and a great project to work on.
Q4: How did you first gain an interest in car design?
Nakamura: It’s just been a natural process really – it’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason or moment in time that my interest was piqued. I started drawing cars at five or six years old, and it just followed on from there. I guess cars have always fascinated me.
Q5: Your work as Chief Creative Officer of Nissan has been widely revered and recognised through several accolades – what, or indeed who, inspires your creativity?
Nakamura: When younger I took my inspiration from the designs of lots of American and Italian cars. Now, working on INFINITI, what drives me is the desire to lead, and not follow - to be innovative and not limited by what others are doing. My work, and the freedom it gives me, very much inspires my creativity.
Q6: You are behind some of INFINITI’s most iconic production and concept vehicles, including the INFINITI FX, Etherea and Emerg-E. Of which of your creations are you most proud and why?
Nakamura: It’s hard to say, as I like them all – they’re all my babies! It’s great working on an INFINITI as by design and definition it’s a car enthusiasts car – nice, powerful, elegant, strong design. I’ve worked on probably 15 models, from the G, FX, QX and JX through to, more recently, the Emerg-E and LE, and I can certainly say I’m proud of them all.
Q7: We’ve seen - in the Emerg-E twin-motored electric concept car - INFINITI’s vision of the future of sports cars. How far into the future do you think it will be before all vehicles are powered by electricity?
Nakamura: I think the future will see a mix of technology – it won’t be 100% electric across the board. The petrol engine will survive as it has a specific character which people love and are used to. We’ll have a lot of choice through the likes of electric, hybrid, fuel cell (hydrogen), diesel and petrol – in the future will be able to choose the most appropriate technology for their needs within their vehicles.
Q8: What advice would you have for young and budding car designers looking to follow in your footsteps?
Nakamura: Passion- that’s the most important thing, full stop!
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