Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. made no secret of the intended buyer for its Urge concept car unveiled Jan. 9 during the North American International Auto Show.
With an integrated Xbox 360 video game system wired into its controls, the Urge takes aim at young car buyers. The gaming enthusiasts targeted by the Urge are highly coveted by carmakers, who want to hook them with brand loyalty from the start.
But the same generation that would be lured by video games also has different design tastes than their parents.
``From cell phones to iPods, they're used to new materials and new technologies,'' said Anke Mazzei, one of the designers at Nissan's La Jolla, Calif., design office who created the Urge. ``They don't think that plastics has to mean something is cheap.''
So Nissan designers ramped up plastics use on the sports car. There is a yellow-tinted, transparent resin used on the doors to highlight the aluminum foam structure inside. Carbon fiber and aluminum is used on the body while a translucent silicone material allows drivers to see the substrate beneath the instrument panel.
``We wanted to reverse the concept of the materials,'' Mazzei said. ``The whole concept is about exposing what is true.''
Tokyo-based Nissan has played with the way it uses plastics. For the interior of the Quest minivan, for instance, the company tossed out the standard practice of disguising the PVC instrument panel skin with a faux leather pattern, instead using an intricate dot pattern.
The California designers have spent a lot of time learning about different resins, experimenting with the way they could use them on the Urge, Mazzei said, and they expect to keep finding new ways to use the materials.
``It's underutilized in the auto industry,'' she said. ``It's all made to look like it's something else - like leather or wood. One of our goals is to show plastics in a true form.''