“When I went to the Middle East I spent my time in desert because there I could get to know the real way people live in the region,explains Shoichi Seto, engineer with the Nissan Market Requirement Investigation Group.

From 1999 to the present the team has performed market surveys for Nissan in a round-the-world trip taking in some eighty countries. Their mission: To look at how automobiles are used in each country, to talk with and listen to the people, and experience the conditions of each environment. This is what you cannot learn from Japan, the precise needs and expectations on a car due to the lifestyles of people living in a certain locale.

For example, in parts of Russia roads are not well maintained so drivers have to use their wipers a lot more. Local stores sell windscreen washer fluid in large five-liter bottles to meet the needs of drivers and the roads. Cars also then need a storage tank that can hold this amount of washer fluid.

In India you’ll notice that many cars drive around with their wing mirrors folded in, since otherwise vehicles would clip each other in the narrow streets. For Indian drivers, keeping an eye on the car behind is not as important as navigating through traffic around you.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, a standard family car is actually a six-seater. A married couple will likely have four children, in addition to a babysitter and driver, so three rows of seats are a must for any family vehicle.

The way a car is used is defined by regional and national traits. Any vehicle being sold in a market must reflect the local identity and needs if it wants to be embraced by drivers.

But just asking locals “What kind of car do you want?may not give you the best answers. Naturally it is hard to answer questions about the special characteristics of your lifestyle or car needs! So the Market Requirements Investigation Group has to behave like a team of spies, gathering information from carefully watching the actions and habits of locals, and then gleaning the hidden driving secrets out of this reconnaissance.

Engineer Hidekatsu Yanai says, “If you perform a market survey you notice that often what people say and what they do are not the same. That’s why it is important to actually go to the area and observe first-hand.br />
Before they can go off on their expedition, though, the researchers need to study the historical and cultural background of each “targetplace. If you don’t do your homework, you’re going to be all at sea when you arrive. Sometimes it’s practicalities like left-hand drive or right-hand drive, or it might be religion or politics; these “spiesmust also be scholars, putting real secret agents to shame.

This kind of field research by engineers is very Nissan-esque. By turning engineers into the researchers they can gain a bird’s eye view of how cars are used on the ground, allowing them to then create better vehicles for the market.

Yet, Masako Kuwahara explains, “just because there is a certain condition and people want a certain kind of car does not mean we manufacture it.br />
Does the demand for a “widerbackseat mean that overall size is important or that it would be better if people’s knees just had more space? Making these judgments in the field, the team presents ways to overcome technical hurdles and then take back home to Japan a feasible recommendation. Good survey data is one thing, but it has to be helpful for actually building a car.

To wrap up their trip, the team holds an internal debriefing session, making presentations while wearing the ethnic clothes that they bought at each of the places they visited. This isn’t cosplay; it’s proof that the spies really inserted themselves into the daily lives of the locals.

All around the world these research spies are now deep undercover in exotic lands. If you spot an unfamiliar face next to you, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just a Nissan engineer on a mission.

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What if you had to drive through a puddle? And what about in the remote chance you are struck by lightning? Let’s say your pet chewed on the charging cable? What if. In the remote chance that. Let’s say. Etc etc.

There is a man who has the heads-up on all the dangers you might face in a Nissan car. His research field is inexhaustible: Everything and anything that can happen to a vehicle. Whatever minute occurrence life throws at a car, it’s his job to test it out.

Kouji Tanaka was part of the EV Safety Protection Project Technical Development team for Nissan’s Leaf. His tireless work assessing all manner of precise details through countless safety tests was honored in 2010 with the COO Award, the top prize for Nissan’s 28,000 employees.

“What are the dangers for an electric vehicle? What kind of tests should be done? We had to really find out through feeling our way,recalls Tanaka. After all, Nissan Leaf was the first electric vehicle the company had mass-produced.

This required the team to create a whole new set of tests they had never conceived of before in all their years of perfecting gasoline vehicles. They had to envision the narrative of drivers actually using the new EV in order to shed light on any potential weaknesses, on any chinks in the armor. The team ended up performing tests narrowed down from over 1,000 hypothetical situations.

The clues for devising these tests always lie in everyday life. Walking the dog leads to “So, what if the dog chewed the EV’s charging cable?Spotting a woman out shopping inspires the question “Would you get an electric shock if you were wearing a necklace while charging up the car?These kinds of moments help Tanaka realize the delicate details of his tests. He also researched the locations of charging stations, went knocking on the door of electronics manufacturers, and even analyzed golf carts.

What’s more, among this plethora of new Nissan Leaf safety tests, there was still one more hurdle nagging Tanaka: The schedule. Time was tight and it called for innovations in the working methodology.

So, at the point when he would ordinarily build a test car, Tanaka was working right alongside Leaf’s designers while it was still at the planning stage and there was no testing vehicle yet. He left the Tochigi test site and stayed for months at the Technical Center in Kanagawa until he had understood everything.

Tanaka’s efforts paid dividends and Nissan Leaf cleared all its safety checks on schedule. This is a man who relentlessly pursues his curiosity for cars and how they work. The devil might well be in the details but when it comes to the safety of a new, innovative vehicle, the challenge is the engineer’s reward.

Examples of the safety tests for Nissan Leaf

Road Surface Friction
What if the car drives over an uneven surface? Whereas a gasoline car has a muffler, under a Nissan Leaf is a battery. The test recreated the road surfaces in countries around the world to check friction or interference with the underside of the vehicle.

Electric Shocks or Shorts When Charging
Tested out the charging technology in an EV, so that in whatever situations or conditions you charged up your car, you would be able to do it safely without risk of electrical leaks or injury.

High Pressure Car Wash
Tested out when you cleaned your car, what would happen if it were directly sprayed with water, even if using a car wash with the most powerful water pressure in the world.

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Doctors treat patients. They battle every kind of malady. They carry out medical care through examinations and checkups, give out prescriptions for medicine and perform operationsNissan staff also work as tenaciously as doctors. To deliver automobiles always of the highest quality for their customers, they too make house calls out to primary, and even secondary parts suppliers: The curing and healing they do is upgrading and improving vehicle parts.

A car is in fact just an accumulation of tens of thousands of parts and, unless every single one is watertight, drivers won’t trust their car. One screw can literally determine the quality of a whole vehicle.

Nissan’s manufacturing bases are all over the world: Japan, America, Europe, Mexico, Thailand, India, China, South America, and more. Its parts suppliers are also scattered across the globe, numbering some 5,000 different companies. But wherever they are made, from whichever supplier they are procured, Nissan’s car parts maintain the highest level of product quality standards. The reason? The Purchasing Monozukuri Support Department, who mediate between Nissan’s design and production teams (the “monozukuri or building, folk), and its numerous suppliers.

The job of this department is just like a doctor’s. They use a global scorecard and select a top-level supplier to carry out a medical-style checkup. If this is a new supplier they will fly out to pay a site visit, internationally if needs be, and do a hands-on examination. The majority of suppliers are given the all-clear in their pre-check, but in the unlikely case of discovering a micro-level illness, they initiate a thorough recuperation program. After all, both Nissan and the supplier want a win-win relationship.

It’s not just top-level suppliers either; the inspectors also perform diagnostic checks on secondary, and even tertiary suppliers. They assess quality, cost, development, delivery and management, all to seek out the top level that Nissan demands.

This team of doctors is made up of around 50 special members of staff who have passed through a tough internal recognition system. They even have medical licenses, divided into wards like “car body “engine and “electrical parts The person with that certificate is an expert in their field.

Appraising and supporting suppliers is Nissan’s responsibility to its products, its mission: Delivering drivers all over the world with vehicles of unquestionable quality. To do this, even today the Purchasing Monozukuri Support Department medics are racing around the globe.

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A magician can make his beautiful assistant float in the air before the very eyes of an audience. Yes, it’s only an illusion. But even Nissan has specialist sensory evaluators who, just like magicians, conjure up extraordinary illusions. Inside a Nissan car you will find new materials developed with an exhaustive scientific understanding of people and utilizing the power of, well, illusion. You might just start to doubt your senses.

Take a silk shirt or polyester one: Which is nicer to touch? Which feels expensive? Most people would answer silk, of course. However, we can’t make every shirt out of silk. Instead we have to make it so that the polyester gives off the sensation of silk. And, just as in fashion, sensory comfort is also extremely important for automobiles.

See, touch, use: In this chain of actions humans will always look to judge if something feels good. To solve how this mystery works we must first be scientific.

Let’s start with “seeing Car interiors mostly use plastic. Many people frown upon plastic, with its characteristically shiny reflection of light. We even say something is “plastickyto describe a material that looks cheap. But the fact is, due to issues of shape and space, there are simply parts of a car where we cannot use a more superior material like leather. So, can we do something to reduce the reflected light and give even plastic a texture as good as leather?

From this idea Nissan’s engineering created “micro-grain By specially coating the resin surface the reflected light is diffused in different directions, thus rendering an impression of quality.

The “touchingpart is also complex. The human finger is a high-precision sensor; it can feel even a single hair just 50 microns in size. But this sensor is not foolproof.

If you can understand how human fingers judge which part is hard or soft, then you can make even the hardest plastic feel soft. Using this science Nissan developed the “soft-feel grain surface a series of tiny bumps that increase the area in contact with our fingertips, thus registering it as soft and moist. Even without using costly fabrics the materials still successfully appeal to our senses.

Nissan’s elite sensory evaluators work to develop micro-grain and soft-feel grain surface in the vehicle interior, looking, touching and using things from the perspective of a driver or passenger. One of them, Akane Ban, has now performed her rigorous assessments 12,000 times over 6 years. Just like a magician she considers how can she create an illusion, and finally tests out whether the trick is detected in practice.

Nissan quantifies this feeling of comfort, and over and over repeats a cycle of inspection, measurement, analysis and design. Not only in Japan, Nissan’s team perseveres so that every one of its global bases will always be able to manufacture fully satisfactory products.

Think you can tell for which vehicle parts Nissan has “magicallyenhanced tactile quality? Go on, we challenge you to take yourself to a Nissan showroom and check them out with your own eyes (and hands). You probably won’t see through the tricks but we reckon you’ll think it still feels pretty good anyway.

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Computers, robots, lasers, sensors - the technology that goes into building a 21st century automobile would make a comic writer from yesteryear scramble for his notebook.

But he would also probably agree that, better than all the fantastic gizmos you could dream up, a surefire recipe for success is to make your hero a humble scientist, and give him superhuman powers.

Meet Takanobu Sakumoto, from Nissan's Vehicle Test Technology Development Division. He's a specialist in the sensory assessment of wind noise - the roar of wind and air as it whooshes past your car when you drive along.

And the cutting -edge technology he uses for his job?

His ears.

A moving car generates all kinds of sounds - engine noise, exhaust noise, road noise. And wind noise. And all those different sounds are muddled together into that familiar roar that reaches your ears as you drive along.

To most of us that's just the noise that cars make, but for Sakumoto each part in the noise has its own particular character, and his ears can distinguish and pinpoint each individual sound, like unraveling a tangle of threads.

Working either in experimental facilities, where Nissan's full-scale aerodynamic wind tunnel can generate winds of up to 270km/h, or out on real expressways, where he gets behind the wheel and literally chases the wind, Sakumoto's job is to listen.

And he has fine-tuned his listening abilities to the point where, while most of us begin to find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds as we get older, he can pick out just one tiny abnormal sound from the whole wall of noise that a moving vehicle makes. And having heard it, he will then locate the source, perhaps a gap just a few millimeters across in a trim component, and find a solution to fix it.

Sakumoto once showed his superhuman style in his own home, when a tiny sound suddenly started to bother him. It was driving him crazy, and he tracked it down to the motor noise of his brand-new refrigerator.

He called the manufacturer and a repair technician came right over, but couldn't solve the problem. The sound was in a range that so few people notice that it wasn't anything that could be repaired.

Sakumoto could have just put it down to “occupational illness and lived with it, but of course, he found his own solution and quietened the offending buzz.

There's nothing quite like that feeling of excitement when you first take your new car out for a drive. At Nissan, we want to make that feeling last, and we believe the way to do that is try to take the quality of every little thing to the next level.

The noise your car makes is one of those things, and Takanobu Sakumoto is the man with superhuman ears who sorts it out. But such extravagant names just make him laugh.

According to Sakumoto, to do this job, you really just have to be a “car person.He says what he needs for his job, and for Nissan's development work, is not superhuman ears, but an insatiable and enduring love for cars.

In the end, that's the kind of people who build Nissan's automobiles. Humble scientists with a passion for their work.

And perhaps just a little pinch of superhuman powers, too.

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The time is the early 1990s. After a long sea journey, a shipload of Nissan cars have arrived in Europe, and are waiting at the port to be moved to their final destinations. Above them, silhouetted against the pale northern sky, flocks of gulls and sea birds swoop and call... and poop.

And that is when the trouble started. Later research revealed that the oil in fish-eating birds' droppings causes it to stick firmly to paint, and eventually dissolve or soften it.

As the cars waited in the sun to be moved, the old droppings quickly dried and shrank, inflicting critical damage on what started out as a smooth coating.

The fleet of shiny new cars was ruined.

Of course, Nissan's paint research began long before 1990, and covers all kinds of substances that can harm paint, including insect juices, tree sap, pollen and acid rain.

Even so, that incident naturally spurred Nissan's researchers to step up their research efforts. They collected data from all around the world about the various causes of damage to paintwork, including gathering droppings from birds of all kinds, living all around the world, and painstakingly analyzing their constituents.

The development team found that different regions need different kinds of paint performance.

In North America, for example, there is an intense onslaught of chipping from small stones thrown up by the car in front, as well as damage from acid rain.

In Europe, paint must be strong against scratches. Not many people know this, but in some cases Nissan subtly tweaks the paint specification to suit the needs of the destination area.

Only Nissan goes to such lengths.

Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of the development team, Nissan's paint has been reborn, far tougher than it used to be, and it is now backed up by “Scratch Shield* a almost magic-like paint technology that guards the surface against blemishes, and even restores minor scratches over time.

Nissan's stance on paint development has moved on from the same old technology, constantly asking what will make a car's coating attractive to the customer.

The development team are researching, night and day, to create paint jobs that will make customers want to blurt out “Wow!when they see a Nissan car.

So never mind about a little bird poop. A car that keeps its luster, however lazy you are about looking after it: that's the ultimate paint job that could be coming soon to Nissan cars.

*Scratch Shield is only available in certain countries and areas.

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The walls of the room are covered with facts, figures, graphs and grainy photographs of the scene of the crime, and on tables around the walls lie burned-out air cleaners, upholstery that has turned to powder, and engine parts cut in half so their innermost workings can be inspected.

But this is not the operations room of the local police department, but rather the entrance hall to Nissan's Field Quality Center.

The shocking exhibit of 30 or more broken or faulty vehicle parts and components are on display for anyone to view. Not only suppliers, but any visitor is free to browse a collection that puts much that Nissan has to regret over the years on show for all the world to see.

The thinking behind such transparency comes from Nissan's firm conviction that they must never make the same mistake twice.

Of course, it is a huge problem that errors were made in the first place. But what is even more important is what happens next. How to deal with the problem swiftly, and put things right. And more, how to ensure that new models will not be subject to the same mistakes.

When a vehicle with a fault is sent to the center, the staff will gather together to inspect it. These are the FQC “detectives They go through every single possibility, one by one, however small and irrelevant it might seem, to find the cause of each problem.

The faulty part is placed in a real vehicle, recreating the actual situation where the fault occurred as closely as possible, and the center staff, suppliers, development and manufacturing teams work together to find the cause of the problem, and fix it.

This process of asking “Why?over and over is called Field Tree Analysis (FTA). Nowadays FTA is done on computers, but it used to be done on paper, and the resulting “treecould sometimes be as large as several square meters in area.

There are times when the problem seems unsurmountable. For example there was a model that was sent to South America that had trouble starting. It was manufactured in Asia, and exported to several countries, but only in one was there a problem. What was happening to cause problems only there...?

The cause, it turned out, was the rain. Noise from the wipers, which should have had no relation at all to the starting mechanism, was damaging the diodes in the starting system, and causing it to fail.

Like detective work, it takes combing through all the endless possibilities in painstaking detail, and working with every relevant department and supplier, to find the cause of such apparently illogical faults.

The Japanese word “kaizenhas become a world standard for the philosophy of continuous improvement, and the staff at the seven FQCs around the world know that there is no end to their Quality Kaizen.

But the ultimate goal is vehicles with no faults at all, and to that end the detectives are constantly tracking down the culprits, and catching them one by one. At FQC, this determination to achieve the utmost quality, they believe, is the key to maintaining the customers' trust.

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Safety is paramount. Nobody would argue with that. But a car isn’t just some piece of machinery that carries things about. It must also be fun to drive, and enjoyable to ride in.

This is a story about how that passion for making cars both safe and exciting, and a chance discovery over breakfast, led to a breakthrough in Nissan’s brake technology.

One morning, Yuichi Murakami, who is currently an Expert Leader in the Total Customer Satisfaction Function team, was sipping his tea as he read the newspaper, when his eye fell on a small article.

It told of the investigation into an aviation incident that had happened several years before, and as Murakami read the article, his heart started beating fast.

The investigation, he read, concluded that the trouble had occurred because the plane had been flying on auto-pilot. Although the pilot had attempted to pull the nose of the plane up out of trouble, the automated mechanism had overridden him.

In other words, thought Murakami, if only the system had given precedence to the pilot not the machine, is it possible that he might have been able to control the plane that day?

It was at that moment that Murakami was convinced that the electronic accelerator system he was currently involved in developing must, in the last instance, be a system that respected human will.

That conviction lead to Nissan developing their Brake Override System before any other Japanese car manufacturer. The system ensures that, should both the electronic accelerator pedal and brake pedal be pushed at the same time, engine power is reduced, and the brake is always given precedence.

But who would brake and accelerate at the same time? That doesn’t seem like a very common scenario. And it’s true that in normal driving it is very unlikely to occur. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. What if something was to jam against the gas pedal, or for some reason the system was to malfunction and the accelerator stuck...?

To ensure that the car will stop safely whatever the situation, currently every Nissan vehicle with an electronic accelerator* is fitted with the Brake Override System.

But Nissan’s system doesn’t forget the needs of serious drivers, either. Should the brake and accelerator be applied at the same time, while providing for safety above all else, for a very short instant - enough for a truly experienced driver - the system gives the driver the option to decide.

That consideration of the customer’s needs is what Nissan is all about.

As computers take over our machines more and more, human’s are inclined to believe that they don’t need to do anything for themselves to remain safe... But that kind of thinking puts too much trust in the machine.

The manufacturer has a duty to make the customer understand to what extent the system will do the work, and what must be left down to human judgement. The key focus of Nissan’s research in the future is to ensure customerssafety while delivering the very best.

But the belief that humans should have the final say will always be at the core of their work.

*not including OEM

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Soccer: the sport that makes the world cheer. On the pitch, 23 players. Eleven on each team, and the all important referee.

The rules of soccer are shared the world over, and the referee refers to the 17 articles in the competition rules, which lay out specifications for the pitch and the ball, scoring methods and more, all of which are explained in a 50-page manual. It's only thanks to these shared rules that global-scale tournaments can be held without dissolving into confusion.

Just like soccer regulations, there are rules at Nissan for making cars. This global standard is called the Alliance Vehicle Evaluation Standard (AVES). There are currently 350 AVES check items, and 350 auditors keeping watch over Nissan automobile quality at production centers in 27 countries worldwide.

Before AVES was introduced, car manufacturing at Nissan was a world of artisans. There were no clear stipulated rules, and cars were simply made with the talent of the craftspeople, and sent out into the world.

But gradually production numbers grew, and the number of employees grew, too. To become a global company, Nissan had to be able to manufacture a high quality car in large quantities, and at production bases all over the world.

So AVES was implemented, to define a clear common language, and standardize Nissan quality in the eyes of the customer.

The foundations for AVES were laid out in 1981. In 1988, the items were separated into static and dynamic categories. And on the alliance with Renault in 1999, it reached the form it takes today.

The first checks come in the prototype stage, and are carried out a total of four times before the vehicle is ready to ship. Two certified auditors assess absolutely everything, from the viewpoint of the customer. During the driving evaluation they scrupulously split the work between the driver's seat and the back seat.

And if a car doesn't clear AVES, even if all the preparations have been put into place to begin selling it, the new model can't be shipped.

It is this powerful authority to show a red card that ensures the highest quality across all Nissan's vehicles.

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A bumpy Italian cobblestone street, a Papua New Guinea dirt road, those notorious Brazilian potholes, and America's manhole covers, famous for the damage they do to a car's suspension... Would you believe it if you were told you could drive through all these conditions in one go? Well, at Nissan's Tochigi Testing Ground, they do just that, every day.

The vast, 2,922,000m2 grounds feature unique road conditions such as manhole covers and curb stones, over ten types of road surfaces - concrete roads, cobblestones, gravel roads, and a 6.5km high speed endurance test course.

Every new model that Nissan sends out into the world is put through its paces here.

To date, Nissan staff have travelled to approximately 65 countries to research road surfaces and test conditions. At each survey site, they meet with several hundred customers and spend a week interviewing them and observing behavior patterns. They also survey the types of driving surfaces, and distances driven.

Then they outfit a demonstration model with measuring instruments and drive the course themselves. The burden experienced by the car on the road surface is converted into data, and that country is given a number rating.

This experience is then recreated in Tochigi, and tests are run using new models optimized for those conditions.

Over the course of the development of a single model, it is no exaggeration to say that enough distance is logged in testing to drive around the world several hundred times.

A car is made up of tens of thousands of parts. To eliminate every bug, produce something of the highest quality and durability, and deliver a safe car to the customer wherever she lives, a new Nissan vehicle is driving the world's roads at the Tochigi Testing Ground again today.

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