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Design for China: Nissan’s Friend-ME

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April 21 – Shanghai – The global auto industry is tailoring products for China, and no segment is more exciting than the post-’80s generation who were the byproduct of the nation’s one-child policy.

Nissan’s Executive Vice President Andy Palmer spoke with the Global Media Center on how the automaker is designing, building and marketing vehicles with a very China-centric strategy in mind, epitomized by its Friend-ME concept car.

Global Media Center

Tell us about the new Nissan Friend-ME concept  and what it says about the company’s commitment to China.

EVP Andy Palmer
It doesn’t come any more Chinese than this. This is about a car exclusively focused on the balinghou generation, the generation that is the product of the single-child policy in China.

What’s interesting about this generation today – they are late-20s, early-30s – is they don’t have any brothers or sisters, so for them friendships – their friends -  are like brothers and sisters, as they’re so important. At the same time, we built a space here that brings four friends together in near semi-cocoons, so you have independence, but you’re also together.

The second most important thing about these customers is they’re absolutely tech-savvy, so they know everything about smartphones, tablets, and it’s part of their life to share their life on social media. This car, not only is it connected to the Internet, but it’s all about social media. You find something cool on your tablets, and you can share it with all of your friends inside the car.

The third important point: It’s all about design, it’s all about show, and here you have a stunning car design, it stands out from the crowd. Of course, that’s really key to this generation of people.

Why is this so important to Nissan? Because China is our biggest market and also the biggest automotive market in the world. This balinghuo generation – post-80s generation – is the biggest segment worldwide. You can look at C Segment, D Segment, E Segment, but if you look at it segmented by generations, this is already 240 million people. This is a huge segment and nobody’s really making cars for this generation, for this segment, for these cool kids that have grown up in a different environment from their parents. We really want to be the first car company that truly addresses this generation. That underlines how important we see China as going forward.

Media Center
In February Nissan launched the Teana here and early indications seem to be it’s selling well. What does this car say about the commitment Nissan has to China and steps going forward?

EVP
Teana is made in China. The first launch of the Teana brand wasn’t anywhere else in the world, it was in China. In its first month, it’s already sold 15,000 cars, so it’s obviously already a hit, which is interesting, as its sibling brother, the Altima, became the No.1 sales passenger car in America.

The product is doing very well both in the U.S. and in China. It underlines the importance of China for us, and at the same time really shows that designing with our diverse management allows us to be successful. Our Chinese colleagues are very much involved both in the design, the delivery and the marketing of Teana, and it shows that even in difficult circumstances – and we’ve had a few difficulties recently from political tension between the two countries – even in those circumstances Nissan has been able to recover its retail sales pace at the level of last year.

Media Center
You’ve talked about how important it is for Nissan to keep its EV leadership and bring it to China, and partner Dongfeng Nissan is integral to that. China’s known for 5-year plans, where do you see EVs going over that period?

EVP
There can be no other place in the world where the understanding of air pollution is more succinct and key than China today. We all know the issues of air quality in Beijing, for example.

Four years ago when we said we were bringing electric cars to the world everybody thought we were mad. It doesn’t look so mad anymore, and we have the leading edge of the technology. Clearly, we’re going to bring electric cars to China. Today we’re already the leader in electric cars globally, but we want to be the leader of EVs in China, and to do that in 2015 with the Venucia brand we’re going to launch the first electric car here.-

 

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