TOKYO - Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. has hired Isuzu's design chief, Shiro Nakamura, to lead its worldwide design effort.
Nissan knew it might be controversial to bring in an outsider, but no one inside the company was right for the job, said Patrick Pelata, Nissan's executive vice president of product planning and strategy.
'In Nissan, we have lots of creative guys,' said Pelata, one of the former Renault SA executives now leading Nissan's recovery. 'The problem is direction.'
He said Nissan wanted someone who spoke Japanese, who knew Japanese culture, who had worldwide experience and who had led several design studios.
Pelata has issued a ban on boring design that has plagued Nissan through the 1990s. He said that bringing in an outsider would shake up the designers and program chiefs.
But Pelata also knew he had to hire a Japanese designer.
'I can push to change the organization, but only a Japanese can change the design thinking,' Pelata said. 'We cannot have the three studios fighting or competing.' He was referring to Nissan's design centers in Japan, Germany and the United States.
Under the new setup, Jerry Hirshberg, president of Design International in San Diego, will report to Nakamura.
Nakamura, 49, was general manager of Isuzu Motors Ltd.'s design center in Fujisawa, outside Tokyo. But much of his appeal to Nissan was his experience in America and Europe.
Prior to his last Isuzu appointment, Nakamura held the posts of vice president of planning and design for Isuzu Motors America and vice president of strategic and product planning for American Isuzu Motors. He was responsible for the design of the 1998 Rodeo and Amigo.
In addition to volume production cars, Nakamura helped develop the Isuzu VehiCross.
The Kai and ZXS concepts at this year's Tokyo Motor Show were Nakamura's swan songs at Isuzu.
Taking Nakamura's spot at Isuzu is Takao Honda, who was Naka-mura's right-hand man on the ZXS and Kai concepts. Most of Honda's work has involved show cars. Isuzu has been among the most consistent automakers in bringing show cars to market.