Nissan has had a presence in London dating back to 2003, when the Japanese company bought the disused Battleship Building at Paddington Basin. At the time, the historically significant building was being used as a bus depot. Scandalous. Now, some ten years later, Nissan has opened an adjacent studio in a newly constructed neighboring building for luxury offshoot Infiniti. Called Infiniti Design London, the new design studio’s mission is to take the premium brand to the next level.
Headed by Infiniti executive design director Alfonso Albaisa, who has held multiple high profile roles within Nissan in California, Japan and Europe, the new studio is the first of a network of global design studios for Infiniti as the brand expands its premium model range by 60 percent by the end of the decade. The next five years will see the brand usher in a new model offensive — production versions utilizing design elements previewed on the numerous concepts shown recently.
Even before the new studio was completed, Infiniti designers designed a new concept, dubbed Q80 Inspiration, which is slated for the Paris motor show in September. It is said to preview a new top-of-the-range model for the brand.
The reason for expanding NDE and provide a new Infiniti-specific design space in London is twofold. First, it will enable designers to work on specific models for the premium carmaker, rather than see their efforts split across two brands that cater to different target groups.
“Having dedicated studios is essential to deepen Infiniti design,” said Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer, Shiro Nakamura. “This is the first step of a global initiative to purify and reinforce the distinctiveness of Infiniti design. The next steps are to open Infiniti design studios in Beijing and San Diego.”
The second reason for the new studio’s chosen location is that it’s easy to attract talent to a buzzing metropolis such as London.
“Infiniti has always been about passion — for design, performance and craftsmanship,” Albaisa said at the studio’s opening ceremony. “With our new generation models, we want to express all that passion plus a new romanticism, and London is a great place to find the inspiration for it. London buzzes with youthful excitement. We are here to pick up that buzz and tailor premium products so they deliver a European take on Infiniti.”
Design is a key driver in achieving success, and Albaisa is positioning the brand as a more individual, tailored offering than products from rival premium companies. The aim is to grow the Infiniti brand’s product portfolio through a broad range of very distinct premium vehicles, and the addition of talented designers working in a state-of-the-art facility is key.
“With the expansion of the portfolio, Infiniti design will keep evolving,” said Nakamura.
Infiniti Design London is one of only a handful of full-capability design centers in a city center location. Nakamura concedes that it’s an extremely expensive undertaking, but an investment that will be worthwhile in the long run. He compares it to Nissan’s central Tokyo Creative Box studio from an inspiration-sourcing perspective, though the London facility will be able to design and build full-size clay models.
More than 10 new Infiniti models have already been designed in Infiniti’s design studios around the world in the past 18 months. Concept versions of the new “romantic” models will start to appear at upcoming international motor shows.