Nissan Xmotion Concept debuts at Detroit auto show

The Xmotion Concept’s flair indicates that Nissan may be looking to better distinguish the next Rogue. Photo credit: Omari Gardner

DETROIT — Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa has hinted lately that he has become enamored with the look of traditional Japanese design. And at the Detroit auto show Monday, it became clear just how infatuated he is.

The Xmotion Concept — a sure bet to be the basis for the next-generation Rogue compact crossover — took the stage here with almost as much Japanese vocabulary as a sushi menu.

The vehicle’s taillights were inspired by kumiko, a Japanese style of woodwork.

The interior console was built based on a method of traditional Japanese wood joining known as kanawa tsugi, used to build Japanese religious shrines with the use of nails.

The instrument panel is modeled to resemble a style of Japanese woodwork known as kigumi, according to Nissan, which said that it was “sliced out of a single tree that was selected from the woods in Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan.”

The headrest design on the seats also was inspired by kumiko woodwork, the company says. The headrests also feature a Japanese-spiced red-lacquer coloring.

And the lower bumpers and side sills are wrapped in carbon woven in Japan’s Nishijin textile district, renown for its fine kimonos.

The concept’s flair indicates that Nissan may be looking to better distinguish the next Rogue at a time when the fast-growing compact crossover segment is becoming crowded with hungry competitors.

Nissan just closed 2017 with U.S. sales of 403,465 Rogues, making it the second-best-selling non-pickup nameplate in the industry. It is the only Nissan model to generate annual U.S. sales of 400,000 or more.

The Rogue was barely outsold by the Toyota RAV4, with 2017 volume of 407,594.

Nissan officials are not directly linking the Rogue and the Xmotion, which the company is pronouncing “cross motion.” But they say the three-row concept indicates what a crossover would look like in “2020 and beyond” — which is the timeframe for the next Rogue.

“The Xmotion Concept is a study in how seemingly disparate elements can gain power and strength through coexistence,” Albaisa said in a statement released prior to Monday’s presentation. “It draws inspiration from the Japanese aesthetics and techniques that have been passed down through generation after generation. At the same time, it achieves the modern purposefulness required for drivers in the near-future era of connected, autonomous crossover vehicles.”

Big wheel

Albaisa, originally from Miami, is the first non-Japanese executive to head up Nissan’s global design direction.

Despite the concept’s traditional Japanese styling traits, the design also projects the robust American “big wheel” look of the SUV segment.

The concept sports metal-crafted 21-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and run-flat, all-terrain tires co-developed by Michelin. The design has pushed the wheels farther out to the vehicle’s corners to create an off-road look.

The seating layout uses three rows of individual side-by-side seats in a blueprint that is a pinch smaller than the current Rogue — but still larger than the new Rogue Sport.

The Xmotion promises a larger wheelbase of 109.6 inches, compared with 106.5 inches on the Rogue, and is also wider — at 76.4 inches instead of the Rogue’s 72.4. But the Xmotion is shorter, at 180.7 inches, vs. 184.5 inches for the Rogue.

More V

The concept has also evolved Nissan’s standard V-motion grille design, using a wider and deeper “V” in the grille and adopting horizontal bars inspired by Japanese architecture to create a lattice pattern.

Nissan said in a statement before the auto show that the look “sets the stage for use on production crossovers and SUVs well into the next decade.”

Although the Xmotion is only a concept exercise, Nissan is envisioning a new array of technical features that also give a nod to Japanese design.

The floating koi

The concept also features a fingerprint authentication system to start the vehicle. When it fires up, a virtual personal assistant appears in the form of a koi fish, according to Nissan. The fish leaps into the vehicle’s main display screen to aide with onboard information features.

Nissan says the concept’s displays and infotainment features could be controlled by hand gestures, eye movements and voice commands.