Historic Retirement in 2017
Since 1999, Shiro Nakamura has held several positions with Nissan. First as Chief Stylist for Nissan and later overseeing products from both Nissan and Infiniti. His latest position, as Nissan Global Brand Manager, is the one which he will retire from this year. During his 18 years at the helm of my favorite car company, he's done an amazing job of tying together a full line of cars, trucks and crossovers into a distinctive brand with iconic features.
While I've only had the pleasure of meeting Nakamura a handful of times, I've always been impressed with his wide perspective on not only cars, but the world of design in particular. When we discussed the 350Z, he talked about how important it was to distill "Z-ness" into the DNA of the Z33 when it was introduced. He was a fan of the sculpted body, big flares and styling cues from both the S30 and Z32 being seamlessly melded. Like many projects, he let other stylists at Nissan do their job, but continuously encouraged them to push the envelope.
Nakamura was active in utilizing Japanese cultural items in Nissan and Infiniti products; as he believed a Japanese car company needed to have roots from its cultural past to separate itself from other car makers. One example would be the high-volume Altima sedan, which has used lateral chrome pillars both front and back, that were inspired by the entrance gate to a Shinto shrine. Infiniti had similar offerings, with interior IP finishers modeled after the textures of iconic Japanese textiles.
Of course, some may only remember the quirky styling of products like the Juke or Nissan Cube. But even in products that most Z fans would never consider, there was an eye towards meeting a particular customer's wants and needs with a product nobody else had seen. That willingness to go out on the edge is another hallmark of good design. You might not like it, but you won't soon forget it, either! Nakamura-san is a quiet, but enthusiastic man. He has overseen three generations of Nissan vehicles and turned over the design reins for Infiniti so that luxury marque can continue its design evolution on a separate path. IMO, he's left Nissan in a far better position than when he first arrived and exercised his personal power wisely.
Enjoy your retirement, Nakamura-san, and may your successor have good fortune in filling those big shoes in the future.