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10 Questions: with Kunio Nakaguro

Senior vice president R&D, Nissan Technical Centre Europe gives the lowdown on his career and the latest news from NTCE

 

What’s your earliest car-related memory?
I became a car enthusiast when I was a schoolboy – of course at that time it was especially for supercars. I was a collector of miniatures such as Lotus, Lamborghini, and Ferrari.

How did you become professionally involved in the automotive industry?
After graduating, I joined Nissan and started my career at the Nissan Research Laboratory in Japan. My first job was in electronic device research. Then I moved to the Nissan Technical Center, also in Japan, which is the center of global Nissan R&D. There, I was engaged in automotive technology development such as HVAC, airbags, auto cruise control, meters, and engine control systems. I’ve also worked in North America, and took up my current position in 2009.

What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Leading the R&D operations for Europe and Russia, and developing market-leading products such as Qashqai and Juke. Nothing makes me happier than to listen to positive comments from customers and magazines.

What are your professional goals for the next 5-10 years?
For Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) to be the most reliable and capable engineering company within the global Nissan R&D organization.

What could legislators do to make your working life easier?
The key to our success in Nissan’s European business is to increase production and development. For that purpose, we need more local suppliers who can develop parts with us, and more engineers who want to join NTCE. In particular, we need further government assistance for enhancement of the manufacturing industry in the UK, and to encourage students to major in engineering.

What’s the most important recent piece of news from NTCE?
On April 10, Nissan and the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that the all-new Nissan C-segment hatchback will be produced at the Sunderland factory in the UK from 2014. NTCE will be responsible for the development of this vehicle in Europe.

How is NTCE responding to trends in the car market?
To enhance our product planning and performance target-setting, together with our sales and marketing function in Europe, we are confirming customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction with our vehicles and our competitors’ vehicles, and we are evaluating competitor vehicles in the market to understand their strengths and weaknesses. We are also researching technology trends in Europe and deciding what new technology should be used in our new vehicles.

Is NTCE’s role changing within the wider world of Nissan development?
Yes. NTCE has been responsible for more vehicle development from the upstream stage. In the past, our product was developed by NTC Japan, and was then handed over to NTCE close to the production phase. But now NTCE has been engaged in the very early stages of development by defining the key functions for European customers and setting the necessary performance targets. We are testing our products at each project milestone and we are securing the product competitiveness. As for European core projects such as Qashqai, NTCE is responsible from the concept creation phase, right through to first production, and then beyond into the vehicle lifecycle.

What are NTCE’s plans for the future?
Being the company responsible for all core models – including zero-emissions vehicles – in the European and Russian markets from the planning phase.

What aspect of vehicle development do you think will have changed noticeably by 2020?
The drive for lower emissions is increasing the diversity of powertrain technology. We are leading the development of zero-emissions technology and we can expect much more electrification of all passenger vehicle powertrains by 2020, whether it be mild hybrid devices such as stop/start, full hybrids, or pure electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf.

 

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