How deeply does Carlos Ghosn get involved in design issues? Just ask Alfonso Albaisa, a designer for Nissan Design America in San Diego.
Albaisa will tell you about a 2002 meeting with Nissan Motor Co.'s CEO at the U.S. studio.
Albaisa was showing off the Quest minivan project he was leading.
Ghosn said, " 'You know, I really like this,' " recalls Albaisa, 38. " 'It doesn't look exactly like a minivan, but it's not a crossover.' "
Then, Alfonso says, Ghosn asked: "Have you thought about how people use the car every day?"
"He said, 'I read someplace that North Americans are constantly sending stuff to the dry cleaners. But you have these little hooks. Have you thought about that, Alfonso?'
"I can't even open my mouth at that point. Of course, I didn't think about that - my wife sends my stuff to the dry cleaners. And he says, 'Typically, it's about 15 articles of clothing. So that's 15 hangers. Design for that.' "
Suffice to say the 2004 Quest will have hooks that are big enough to hold plenty of clothing. It also is designed to be a sexy alternative to the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.
You could say that the Quest was designed from the inside out.
"We focused on innovation for the interior and let the exterior come out of that," Albaisa says.
Features include rear skylights, middle seats that fold nearly flat and a futuristic instrument panel.
On the exterior, the beltline for the driver and front-seat passenger is lower than that of other minivans.
"The parent wants to see everything, so the beltline's low and the instrument panel's quite flat," Albaisa says. "It really inspires an open feeling."