Nissan has announced the appointment of longtime Ford Motor Co. designer David Woodhouse to the post of Vice President of Nissan Design America (NDA). Reporting to Nissan head of design Alfonso Albaisa, Woodhouse will be responsible for all Nissan and Infiniti design activities in North America and serve on the global Nissan Design management committee.
Woodhouse broke the news of his departure from Ford – where he served as global strategic design director and Lincoln design director – on June 7th, writing that it had “been an emotional week” on Facebook. “[It was] a very difficult decision as I am so personally vested in the Lincoln brand transformation and all the advanced projects underway,” Woodhouse wrote. “Ending a long-standing relationship with a corporation is just like ending a personal relationship.”
While there was speculation and public uncertainty surrounding Woodhouse’s decision to resign from Ford after nearly 20 years with the company – many OEMs are having to pivot in the wake of changing paradigms and restructure their teams to ensure the company’s sustainability – Nissan’s recent announcement now makes more sense.
Founded in 1979, NDA was Nissan’s first design studio outside of Japan. Today the expansive San Diego-based design facility designs vehicles for global markets with a particular emphasis on the North American region. Working as a counterpart to Nissan’s other global design studios, NDA is a full-production design studio capable of handling all phases of automotive design development, from exploratory to production. It’s also in a prime location.
Woodhouse is a car guy, he lives and breathes petrol and it flows through his veins. His best work arguably comes out of a period in his life when he was immersed in locales where the car culture is vibrant. With his new role, Woodhouse is now leaving Michigan to return to sunny Southern California, where he worked as strategic design director under Freeman Thomas. He was also instrumental in guiding some very influential programs through while chief designer at Ingeni, Ford Motor Co.’s creative think tank in London, UK.
A graduate of the Royal College of Art in London, Woodhouse’s automotive design career spans some 25 years. During that time he has worked for BMW, JLR, Cadillac and served as chief designer for Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG). Woodhouse was exposed to the world of automobiles through his parents’ business, and his talent for automobile design was apparent at an early age. As a teenager, he won competitions sponsored by Autocar and Car magazines.
While Woodhouse’s main mission is to create “emotional, meaningful, beautiful, contemporary and transformational designs” his love for the motorcar runs deeper than the corporate design studio. He has been a judge at numerous prestigious Concours events around the world and he also collects, restores and competes in classic and vintage racing cars. I remember hearing his name announced at the Goodwood Revival as he won a spot on the podium piloting his F3 car – a 1955 Cooper-Norton Mk9 that Ivor Bueb won with at Goodwood in 1955.
From the Lincoln C concept to the largely misunderstood Ford Flex, Woodhouse had his hand in an array of projects that were very design-led while in California. He was assigned the Lincoln design director post after Max Wolff stepped down in 2013 and ushered in several new vehicles – four concepts, four production programs, and four facelifts – including the stunningly ostentatious 2016 Navigator concept.
Woodhouse’s other credits include the Ford Shelby GR1, Ford Airstream, Ford Reflex, Lincoln Continental Concept, Lincoln Mk9 Coupe, Lincoln Aviator Concept, Cadillac Imaj Concept and first generation Land Rover Freelander.
The time, however, seems to be ripe to take over Nissan’s objectives in North America, a role Woodhouse inherited from the talented Taro Ueda, who moves back to Nissan’s headquarters in Japan in a more global role.
“As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Nissan Design America, I am pleased that David Woodhouse will be leading and inspiring our talented team in San Diego,” Nissan’s Senior VP of Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, said in a statement. “David’s talent, leadership and vision will ensure that NDA shapes an exciting future for the Infiniti and Nissan brands as well as groundbreaking user experience concepts for our customers for years to come.”
I personally wish David Woodhouse all the very best in his new role as VP of Nissan Design America and look forward to seeing him around at future automotive events, both corporate and vintage.