NASHVILLE -- Bruce Campbell, who brought a hip American style to several of Nissan Motor Co.'s key models, will retire as the company's top U.S. designer at the end of this month, the company said today.
Campbell's San Diego studio turned out the designs for the 370Z as it morphed from a low-tech Japanese pocket rocket into a full-fledged sports car.
He also led the work for the Xterra, an SUV that struck gold with young buyers and helped Nissan stay afloat during the late 1990s. Campbell, 57, also oversaw the current Altima and Maxima, as well as Nissan's fleet of U.S.-oriented pickups and SUVs.
Alfonso Albaisa, vice president of Nissan Design Europe, will replace Campbell as vice president of Nissan Design America.
Albaisa previously worked at the San Diego studio and was influential in several U.S. design projects, including the Altima, Maxima and Rogue. He has headed up the European design group since 2007.
“I'm looking forward to more biking and skiing,” Campbell said this morning after a pre-work bike ride at his home. The executive typically rides 30 miles a day and up to 60 on the weekends, he said.
Campbell, a former industrial designer, joined Nissan in 1980. Of all of his projects there, he said he is fondest of a 1990 challenge to create a low-cost Nissan truck for U.S. customers that was functional but stylish. The result -- the Nissan Gobi concept -- featured an oval cabin and a flashy cargo bed.
Functional and fun
Nissan opted not to produce the truck. But Campbell said the project continued to influence Nissan's styling for years. “It showed us that we could do completely functional products but make them fun and appealing to customers.”
His latest work -- the Nissan NV2500 commercial van -- was unveiled yesterday at the 2010 Work Truck Show in St. Louis. Nissan says the van is the first commercial van on the U.S. market to contain a center console for driver convenience.
Nissan is entering a new era of design that relies on global vehicle platforms shared between Nissan and its European partner Renault, Campbell said.
“That era of designing cars just for North America is coming to a close,” he reflected. “The job today is to make global cars work. That makes good business sense, but it can be a challenge for a designer.”
Campbell said that Nissan and Renault designers will always be committed to keeping their designs separate and distinct.
Campbell will continue serving as a consultant to the automaker's global design chief, Shiro Nakamura.
Last year, Nissan consolidated its U.S. design team at San Diego, relocating designers from its suburban Detroitr&d office. The San Diego operation now has about 60 people, he said.
“It was my role to get everybody together in one place,” he said. “It's important to have all that creative power under one roof.”