Nissan's concept car by committee

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The IDx Freeflow concept car, on show on the Nissan stand at the Tokyo Motor Show, was co-created with its next generation of customers and the company believes the approach could signal the future of automotive design.

The IDx Freeflow concept embodies what the digital native generation expects from a car designed for leisure and lifestyle pursuits. Car companies often make such bold statements when unveiling and justifying the appearance, functions and features of a new model, but in the case of the Freeflow, Nissan is not being economical with the truth nor using marketing spin.

The company invited young consumers to join the development team and also crowd-sourced feedback through social media throughout the process. But as well as directly involving the car’s potential owners, Nissan made a brave decision to start the process with a blank sheet of paper rather than with an existing platform or technology package, the method by which most new cars are currently developed.

As Francois Bancon, division general manager of Product Strategy and Product Planning at Nissan explains: “We have always valued and respected customer input and sought to exceed customer expectations. Now we are taking this into a new dimension by having customers who are passionate about Nissan participate in the development process with collaborative creation. As members of the development team, customers will work together with specialists to co-create a new generation of Nissan vehicles that reflect our customers’ desires, insights and creativity at a more profound level than ever before.”

In the case of the IDx Freeflow, the overwhelming desire appears to be for a four-passenger two-door coupe that that blends functionality with fashion. As such the interior is inspired by a lounge where friends can meet and relax, and elements such as the mirrors and instrument dials look like furnishings or ornaments that wouldn’t look out of place in a young professional’s home.

The concept also proves that some fashions come and go but that jeans will always be jeans. Denim was selected for covering the seats.

The car’s exterior look is meant to be ‘smart/casual,’ the idea being that it wouldn’t look out of place pulling up outside a nightclub or at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and under the hood is a low-powered fuel-efficient petrol engine mated to a CVT (continuously varying transmission) gearbox.

And, although the Freeflow is just a concept, the IDx process, the name Nissan has given to its co-creation approach looks set to dictate the future direction of the company’s design.

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