Previous Nissan Sentras were designed with Japan in mind and then were pushed onto the North American sales organization. But the 2000 Sentra redesign was co-engineered by executives in Japan and North America with the U.S. market very much in mind.
Leading the North American team was Teruo Takahashi, overseas principal product designer for Nissan's technical center in Farmington Hills, Mich. Takahashi spoke to Staff Reporter Mark Rechtin at the press introduction of the Sentra in Las Vegas.
Edited excerpts follow:
How flexible is this platform? Is it really a world platform?
There is some differentiation from market to market, but it is the Sentra in America, Sunny in Japan and Almera in Europe. The previous platform was just a sedan and hatchback; there were no minivan or wagon derivatives. This one, we will also use for wagons, utility wagons and Asian-market derivatives.
What were some of the cost-saving initiatives you used to hit your target?
The rear suspension is the same for all markets; we had to keep it for two generations. We used common front strut parts for the multilink suspension for all the world markets, except North America and Europe. For front and side crash safety performance, we use the same parts, but that also depends on the upper body shape.
What are some of the differences for the U.S. market?
Americans like large wheels and tires, so the application of 16-inch wheels is exclusive here. That also means a different suspension. There's a remote trunk opener. The 2.0-liter engine also is unique here. Although it is a carryover, it has an improved exhaust system with a variable flow muffler.
The Japanese staff didn't understand why we needed more performance, because the buyer in Japan is much older. So I had to explain it to them. This Sentra also marks the first time we've applied three-stage Pearl White paint on a compact car. It's expensive, but I think it's necessary.