Mass-market Nissan and upscale Infiniti must address common trends while carving out distinct spaces. The challenge is incorporating a rush of new technology — everything from electrification, autonomous driving and connectivity — while keeping things fresh for several years.
At Infiniti, the new look is previewed in the Q Inspiration concept sedan shown at the Shanghai auto show in April. It embodies electrification partly by dumping the front grille.
At Nissan, the future is foreshadowed by the IMQ crossover concept shown a month earlier in Geneva. It envisions a package for the company's e-Power range-extender hybrid setup.
Getting a look that resonates with the U.S. consumer is key, but Albaisa also wants to keep the direction firmly rooted in Nissan's heritage as a Japanese carmaker.
"What I can say is that our design themes will continue to be inspired by and connect to our Japanese DNA," he said. "I am eager to watch David start to immerse himself in our Japanese DNA and see how this inspires him and influences his views on design."
U.S. sales of the Nissan and Infiniti brands slumped in 2018 as the company tried to overhaul its retail strategy by reeling in incentives and cutting back on fleet sales. The Nissan Group's sales fell another 6.6 percent through May in an overall market down just 2.4 percent.
The Nissan brand's long-in-the-tooth U.S. lineup is poised for an update, and a new design language that captures the technology trends of tomorrow could help.
The company expects to freshen 70 percent of its lineup in the next few years.
Woodhouse will report directly to Albaisa and also serve on the Global Nissan Design Management Committee. Woodhouse replaces Taro Ueda, who will return to Nissan in Japan and take a global role focusing on user experience and user interface, especially in China.
Woodhouse's hiring is part of the Nissan brand's push to build a top-flight team spanning the globe. This year alone, Nissan opened design studios in Brazil and Shanghai.
"I see all of our design centers as part of one big global team," Albaisa said.
"While each of these studios produce work for their markets, they also make significant contributions to global projects across the Nissan, Datsun and Infiniti brands."
Urvaksh Karkaria contributed to this report.