There are 30 vehicle design projects in the works of varying global scale. First up are Nissan's body-on-frame vehicles, as well as a new initiative for Renault and Nissan to deepen their alliance collaboration on light commercial vehicles.
He says his approach to the creative process will differ from what Nissan's studios around the world are used to.
At his first design meeting as the new boss last month in Japan, Albaisa dispensed with the usual formal meeting room ambiance of chairs and desks. Instead, sofas were brought in and designers sat around in clubby comfort.
"I want to encourage more casual collaboration," Albaisa said, talking to Automotive News during the New York auto show.
In recent years, Nakamura was steering more responsibility to Albaisa, who was named executive design director of Infiniti in 2014, and corporate vice president for design business management and global strategy last year. He started with Nissan's California design studio in 1988, just after graduating from Pratt Institute in New York. A Florida native and son of Cuba-born parents, Albaisa has spoken in recent years of wanting to bring a Latin flavor into the designs he was overseeing at Infiniti. By that, he meant introducing more emotion and flair in the styling, he has said, adding that the influence would begin to emerge in 2016 and 2017.
Last month in New York, Albaisa presented the Infiniti QX80 Monograph concept, what he called a design study for the next-generation QX80 SUV. He pointed out that the concept's sides and creases were intended to suggest human muscle, an effect that he said evoked the sculpture of Auguste Rodin.
Under Nakamura, Albaisa also oversaw the most recent redesigns of the Maxima and Murano. The global Micra subcompact was Albaisa's project.
But as Albaisa moved up the ladder of global design leadership, Nakamura urged him to set down his pencils and focus only on managing the company's creative talent.
"I was still designing," Albaisa said. "Shiro told me, "You have to stop designing now.' I don't know if can. I've wanted to design my whole life."
As a mentor, Nakamura allowed Albaisa to do as he pleased, Albaisa says.
"It was sort of a Peter Pan existence for me, getting to design when I wanted to," he says. "But those Peter Pan days are now over. We have a lot of work to do."