How do you bully a car? Drive it on an unsurfaced road. Collide with something on the road. Drive it through water. But don’t call the police: This kind of “bullying” is all just part of the meticulous tests a new car undergoes. Everything is designed to enhance the quality of the vehicle and it’s all actually done only out of love.

Nissan’s automobiles drive on all sorts of roads. Whatever the bumps or obstacles in the road, whether it’s a rainy or stormy day, a properly surfaced road or unsurfaced one, it’s Nissan’s mission above all to ensure that its cars can be driven comfortably and above all safely, no matter the conditions. Nissan’s engineers conduct tests and endless simulations to check exactly what happens in case of the unexpected, the “what if…” scenario.

The people behind these rigorous tests are a team of ace engineers, the Vehicle Reliability Test Group. Every day they keep up their tenacious, even cruel, persecution of Nissan automobiles. For a car, the testers are kind of like a personal trainer in a gym.

Since the lower half of a car has many important parts, the bullies need to check if friction from protrusions on the road damages the car in any way. Even the smallest crack can lead to fuel leaks and serious accidents. When a vehicle goes over a bump there is the possibility that internal parts will also collide together and cause damage. Inside a car’s very limited space there are all sorts of complex mechanical features, and with such narrow margins, maintaining safety against accidents is vital. To work out the best way to store these parts in the car, the bullies carry out experiments testing and measuring to the millimeter.

All Nissan’s cars have to clear a staggering number of tests before they can finally get their stripes, and be ready for the real world. As Vehicle Reliability Test Group manager Kazuhiro Obayashi says, “Nissan’s forte lies in working from the perspective of safety and accident prevention from the planning right through to the manufacturing.”

In 2010 the “bullies” from the testing section reached the peak of their uniquely expressed love. The reason? Enter the EV. These personal trainers may well have dispatched countless other Nissan vehicles safely off to all the corners of the globe but an electric vehicle represented new, uncharted waters. All the things that might seem unnecessary to test for in a gasoline car don’t apply when it comes to an EV. In the end, there’s only way to satisfy all the doubts: Test, test, and test.

Whatever the special features or appeal a car might have, if the basic performance of the model is defective then it’s worthless. Tests exist to check the safety of the car and to prevent hazards. We take it for granted that whatever the circumstances or conditions our vehicle will protect the safety and security of the passengers and driver. The bullies make it so.

Today the testing team is continuing its labor of love to groom 100% safe vehicles through vast numbers of stringent tests. And the driving force for this “bullying”? Their constant adoration for cars and the pride as engineers when customers can use their cars without worry. Now the task is for everyone else at Nissan to develop more new vehicles to satisfy the craving the testers have for always tougher bullying “victims.”

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The evolutionists constantly investigating and advancing the controls in a Nissan vehicle are the Human Engineering Team. It’s their mission to enhance the safety, handling and cognitive properties for all the things that drivers touch in their cars. Naturally, demonstration tests inside a moving vehicle are imperative for this. However, there is a reason why testing responses while actually driving is tricky: It’s just not safe.

The solution is the driving simulator. Nissan designs and adjusts switches and dials to the centimeter so it needs a large-scale device to test things out. This simulator creates a driving “performance” just like the real thing. Sitting in the cockpit, a giant screen in front and behind shows computer graphics that match the simulated driving motion. The test participant truly comes to believe they are actually driving on a road. When asked to crash into another “car” driving alongside them in the simulation, they apparently answer that they are too scared to try! The driving simulator’s secret to its success lies in the use of a video screen that appears 3D and in deftly recreating the effects of g-force on the test participant.

The simulator records a driver’s brain waves, and the way he or she looks at and uses all the devices inside the car: Dials, switches, buttons, meters, car navigation, audio equipment, air conditioning, the steering. From this the Human Engineering Team works out guidelines for the sizes and numbers of things in the vehicle, passing on this feedback to the design and planning departments. Of course, the test participants are not just drawn from the ranks of the ergonomics specialists themselves, but from regular members of the public as well, and in variations of gender, age and driving experience. The aim is to find an interface that is universal and easy to use for all drivers.

One example of something that has evolved through ergonomic testing with the driving simulator is the car navigation system, which integrates dials and buttons with a touchscreen. Drivers select what they want from the eight buttons, or use the touch panel interface or central rotating dial. Even when driving they don’t have to read the screen since they intuitively come to learn the controls through the physical feel of turning the dial. They can also operate the device through switches on the steering wheel. Combining a touchscreen with these kinds of switches and dials gives birth to an intuitive but safe interface.

Yonosuke Miki is Human Engineering Team Manager, in charge of harnessing the driving simulator to improve Nissan’s vehicles. Developing a car interface is special, he says. “Out of all the forms of mobility in the world – planes, ships – what is difficult for a car is that an unspecified number of people will use it daily.” Unlike pilots, who are trained, the controls of a car are operated by ordinary drivers, just normal people, so it’s vital to make an interface that is universal, safe, and user-friendly. And this is why at Nissan even the smallest switch in a car is also always evolving.

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Boom! Pounding around the factory comes the savage noise of giant objects being brutally crushed. This is the soundtrack to the birth of a car body. The active, eager beast is a press machine that transforms metal into vehicle shells and parts. It works ferociously, side by side with a 3,200-ton and other press machines in the Oppama Plant, each with their own size, role and capability. The larger the machine, the more power it has and the bigger the material it can process in one immense force.

But this tribe of animals won’t just keep on making car shells if left to their own devices. They need tamers. These specialists assemble the press molds and adjust the load, maintaining a high overall production ratio so that manufacturing can proceed without delays. It’s their job to take into consideration the size and number of the parts being made, to create a plan and “command” the beast to create, say, the front panel of a JUKE or the side body of a LEAF vehicle. What shape, how much power, what size – the beast cannot decide this on its own.

There are around thirty plant workers taming the 5,000-ton press. Each press differs in the way it is used, so each one requires its own team of experts. To reach the point where you have the skills to find and analyze problems in the presses takes three years. It’s in the hands of this well-trained group to domesticate and monitor the machines so that the whole line can operate to its best efficiency and capacity.

The most critical thing of all is a production line that maintains quality in the car parts. The plant workers thus stand guard over the press machines, passing judgment over the quality of the results. As a critical element of this process they conduct regular visual and sensory blind checks on the parts. The first pressing is always checked, along with the last, as well as others at periodic intervals. Needless to say, if they find even one with any flaw whatsoever, they look at the whole line again.

And these mistakes in the pressing process are measured in the smallest of units. A fundamental skill of “taming” is being able to make judgments on quality to the micrometer. You might think that surely it would be easier to use a computer but at present, computers just do not have the same degree of assessment skills as a human. For such a complex beast and its spoils, it takes a real person to tame, control and check it.

What likely gets your attention with the 5,000-ton press is its sheer power. But it is also incredibly precise, with an accuracy of 0.5 millimeters. The pressing process is the first step in the manufacturing of a vehicle, turning rolls of sheet metal into three-dimensional car body shapes. The accuracy of each and every part connects to the ultimate quality of the final car, so there can be no compromise. Even so, the hard-working press can still manufacture fifteen panels per minute, some eight thousand pressings daily.

Of course, the level of precision is possible because the plant-workers are constantly keeping a sharp eye. The maintenance team performs daily inspections and repairs, like veterinarians giving their animal wards a check-up. They are on-call twenty-four hours a day, even at weekends, always ready to rush over to the plant and perform surgery on the beasts. It takes the vets ten years to master the skills and techniques for their task, though without them Nissan’s beautiful car body shells simply wouldn’t exist.

Aesthetic is also a major part of quality. A car like JUKE has a shape that was impossible to make with prior press machines but the 5,000-ton beast turned its design into concrete reality in an instant. The truth is, despite the brute force, the press machines and their tamers all have a boundless affection for the Nissan cars they create.

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Day and night, the road simulator knows no rest in its ceaseless quest to test Nissan vehicle durability. This might well be a car mounted onto a large inside mechanical platform, but it’s set up to create wheel and suspension load just as if the car was driving on an actual road. Through simulating driving motion for thousands of kilometers, and analyzing the impact from bad road surfaces and the deterioration of car parts, the machine helps perfect a car that will last longer in the real world.

In previous durability trials the only real method to test out a car was to have a driver actually drive the vehicle for tens of thousands of kilometers on a special course. Now we have this kind of road simulator that can test multiple kinds of axial load and recreate global road conditions. Want to test just the front of the car or the suspension? It can run focused tests. Want to test different tires? Of course, no problem! A completely new kind of model like Nissan Leaf, even when it first went on sale, had already been “driven” tens of thousands of kilometers to test its durability.

Data collected from driving on the Nissan test drive courses at Tochigi and Oppama can be inputted into the road simulator. Nissan conducts market surveys all over the world, giving it know-how on all manner of global road surfaces, which can then be recreated twenty-four seven on this simulator. Based on its research into the ways cars are used throughout the globe, Nissan has made the Reliability Assurance Standards. These are the foundation of its tests with the road simulator, but each trial also works to improve the Standards. In other words, the more Nissan’s engineers test and simulate, the better the durability of the vehicles will become.

The best thing about the simulator is not just that now test drivers don’t have to get bad backs. The real beneficiaries are the customers, who can buy cars that are even more reliable and durable. Unlike a regular test driver and course scenario, the road simulator can conduct multiple data readings simultaneously and obtain results more accurately. If, for example, some parts come loose, the team behind the road simulator, the Body and Chassis Reliability Test Group, can judge the cause through analyzing the data, reporting that feedback to the design team to fix defects or weak areas.

These engineers are the navigators for the simulator’s long journeys: Their expertise lies in taking the data measured with an actual test car and then recreating the movement of a vehicle based on how a customer would use it. They consider how best to faithfully imitate outside environment conditions, such as using fans to generate “wind” effects, making sure the results they get are always as accurate as a “real” drive.

For Nissan, “durability” means that up until when they finally let go of their cars, its customers should never be failed by their vehicles. It’s the unrelenting voyage of the testers and their road simulator to seek out the level of quality that can make this a reality. Following further tests in the outside world, the simulator’s “road” finally ends when customers take the driving seat for themselves. Then begins the real journey on Nissan’s never-ending highway.

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“When I went to the Middle East I spent my time in desert because there I could get to know the real way people live in the region,” explains Shoichi Seto, engineer with the Nissan Market Requirement Investigation Group.

From 1999 to the present the team has performed market surveys for Nissan in a round-the-world trip taking in some eighty countries. Their mission: To look at how automobiles are used in each country, to talk with and listen to the people, and experience the conditions of each environment. This is what you cannot learn from Japan, the precise needs and expectations on a car due to the lifestyles of people living in a certain locale.

For example, in parts of Russia roads are not well maintained so drivers have to use their wipers a lot more. Local stores sell windscreen washer fluid in large five-liter bottles to meet the needs of drivers and the roads. Cars also then need a storage tank that can hold this amount of washer fluid.

In India you’ll notice that many cars drive around with their wing mirrors folded in, since otherwise vehicles would clip each other in the narrow streets. For Indian drivers, keeping an eye on the car behind is not as important as navigating through traffic around you.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, a standard family car is actually a six-seater. A married couple will likely have four children, in addition to a babysitter and driver, so three rows of seats are a must for any family vehicle.

The way a car is used is defined by regional and national traits. Any vehicle being sold in a market must reflect the local identity and needs if it wants to be embraced by drivers.

But just asking locals “What kind of car do you want?” may not give you the best answers. Naturally it is hard to answer questions about the special characteristics of your lifestyle or car needs! So the Market Requirements Investigation Group has to behave like a team of spies, gathering information from carefully watching the actions and habits of locals, and then gleaning the hidden driving secrets out of this reconnaissance.

Engineer Hidekatsu Yanai says, “If you perform a market survey you notice that often what people say and what they do are not the same. That’s why it is important to actually go to the area and observe first-hand.”

Before they can go off on their expedition, though, the researchers need to study the historical and cultural background of each “target” place. If you don’t do your homework, you’re going to be all at sea when you arrive. Sometimes it’s practicalities like left-hand drive or right-hand drive, or it might be religion or politics; these “spies” must also be scholars, putting real secret agents to shame.

This kind of field research by engineers is very Nissan-esque. By turning engineers into the researchers they can gain a bird’s eye view of how cars are used on the ground, allowing them to then create better vehicles for the market.

Yet, Masako Kuwahara explains, “just because there is a certain condition and people want a certain kind of car does not mean we manufacture it.”

Does the demand for a “wider” backseat mean that overall size is important or that it would be better if people’s knees just had more space? Making these judgments in the field, the team presents ways to overcome technical hurdles and then take back home to Japan a feasible recommendation. Good survey data is one thing, but it has to be helpful for actually building a car.

To wrap up their trip, the team holds an internal debriefing session, making presentations while wearing the ethnic clothes that they bought at each of the places they visited. This isn’t cosplay; it’s proof that the spies really inserted themselves into the daily lives of the locals.

All around the world these research spies are now deep undercover in exotic lands. If you spot an unfamiliar face next to you, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just a Nissan engineer on a mission.

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What if you had to drive through a puddle? And what about in the remote chance you are struck by lightning? Let’s say your pet chewed on the charging cable? What if. In the remote chance that. Let’s say. Etc etc.

There is a man who has the heads-up on all the dangers you might face in a Nissan car. His research field is inexhaustible: Everything and anything that can happen to a vehicle. Whatever minute occurrence life throws at a car, it’s his job to test it out.

Kouji Tanaka was part of the EV Safety Protection Project Technical Development team for Nissan’s Leaf. His tireless work assessing all manner of precise details through countless safety tests was honored in 2010 with the COO Award, the top prize for Nissan’s 28,000 employees.

“What are the dangers for an electric vehicle? What kind of tests should be done? We had to really find out through feeling our way,” recalls Tanaka. After all, Nissan Leaf was the first electric vehicle the company had mass-produced.

This required the team to create a whole new set of tests they had never conceived of before in all their years of perfecting gasoline vehicles. They had to envision the narrative of drivers actually using the new EV in order to shed light on any potential weaknesses, on any chinks in the armor. The team ended up performing tests narrowed down from over 1,000 hypothetical situations.

The clues for devising these tests always lie in everyday life. Walking the dog leads to “So, what if the dog chewed the EV’s charging cable?” Spotting a woman out shopping inspires the question “Would you get an electric shock if you were wearing a necklace while charging up the car?” These kinds of moments help Tanaka realize the delicate details of his tests. He also researched the locations of charging stations, went knocking on the door of electronics manufacturers, and even analyzed golf carts.

What’s more, among this plethora of new Nissan Leaf safety tests, there was still one more hurdle nagging Tanaka: The schedule. Time was tight and it called for innovations in the working methodology.

So, at the point when he would ordinarily build a test car, Tanaka was working right alongside Leaf’s designers while it was still at the planning stage and there was no testing vehicle yet. He left the Tochigi test site and stayed for months at the Technical Center in Kanagawa until he had understood everything.

Tanaka’s efforts paid dividends and Nissan Leaf cleared all its safety checks on schedule. This is a man who relentlessly pursues his curiosity for cars and how they work. The devil might well be in the details but when it comes to the safety of a new, innovative vehicle, the challenge is the engineer’s reward.

Examples of the safety tests for Nissan Leaf

Road Surface Friction
What if the car drives over an uneven surface? Whereas a gasoline car has a muffler, under a Nissan Leaf is a battery. The test recreated the road surfaces in countries around the world to check friction or interference with the underside of the vehicle.

Electric Shocks or Shorts When Charging
Tested out the charging technology in an EV, so that in whatever situations or conditions you charged up your car, you would be able to do it safely without risk of electrical leaks or injury.

High Pressure Car Wash
Tested out when you cleaned your car, what would happen if it were directly sprayed with water, even if using a car wash with the most powerful water pressure in the world.

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Doctors treat patients. They battle every kind of malady. They carry out medical care through examinations and checkups, give out prescriptions for medicine and perform operations… Nissan staff also work as tenaciously as doctors. To deliver automobiles always of the highest quality for their customers, they too make house calls out to primary, and even secondary parts suppliers: The curing and healing they do is upgrading and improving vehicle parts.

A car is in fact just an accumulation of tens of thousands of parts and, unless every single one is watertight, drivers won’t trust their car. One screw can literally determine the quality of a whole vehicle.

Nissan’s manufacturing bases are all over the world: Japan, America, Europe, Mexico, Thailand, India, China, South America, and more. Its parts suppliers are also scattered across the globe, numbering some 5,000 different companies. But wherever they are made, from whichever supplier they are procured, Nissan’s car parts maintain the highest level of product quality standards. The reason? The Purchasing Monozukuri Support Department, who mediate between Nissan’s design and production teams (the “monozukuri”, or building, folk), and its numerous suppliers.

The job of this department is just like a doctor’s. They use a global scorecard and select a top-level supplier to carry out a medical-style checkup. If this is a new supplier they will fly out to pay a site visit, internationally if needs be, and do a hands-on examination. The majority of suppliers are given the all-clear in their pre-check, but in the unlikely case of discovering a micro-level illness, they initiate a thorough recuperation program. After all, both Nissan and the supplier want a win-win relationship.

It’s not just top-level suppliers either; the inspectors also perform diagnostic checks on secondary, and even tertiary suppliers. They assess quality, cost, development, delivery and management, all to seek out the top level that Nissan demands.

This team of doctors is made up of around 50 special members of staff who have passed through a tough internal recognition system. They even have medical licenses, divided into wards like “car body”, “engine”, and “electrical parts”. The person with that certificate is an expert in their field.

Appraising and supporting suppliers is Nissan’s responsibility to its products, its mission: Delivering drivers all over the world with vehicles of unquestionable quality. To do this, even today the Purchasing Monozukuri Support Department medics are racing around the globe.

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A magician can make his beautiful assistant float in the air before the very eyes of an audience. Yes, it’s only an illusion. But even Nissan has specialist sensory evaluators who, just like magicians, conjure up extraordinary illusions. Inside a Nissan car you will find new materials developed with an exhaustive scientific understanding of people and utilizing the power of, well, illusion. You might just start to doubt your senses.

Take a silk shirt or polyester one: Which is nicer to touch? Which feels expensive? Most people would answer silk, of course. However, we can’t make every shirt out of silk. Instead we have to make it so that the polyester gives off the sensation of silk. And, just as in fashion, sensory comfort is also extremely important for automobiles.

See, touch, use: In this chain of actions humans will always look to judge if something feels good. To solve how this mystery works we must first be scientific.

Let’s start with “seeing”: Car interiors mostly use plastic. Many people frown upon plastic, with its characteristically shiny reflection of light. We even say something is “plasticky” to describe a material that looks cheap. But the fact is, due to issues of shape and space, there are simply parts of a car where we cannot use a more superior material like leather. So, can we do something to reduce the reflected light and give even plastic a texture as good as leather?

From this idea Nissan’s engineering created “micro-grain”. By specially coating the resin surface the reflected light is diffused in different directions, thus rendering an impression of quality.

The “touching” part is also complex. The human finger is a high-precision sensor; it can feel even a single hair just 50 microns in size. But this sensor is not foolproof.

If you can understand how human fingers judge which part is hard or soft, then you can make even the hardest plastic feel soft. Using this science Nissan developed the “soft-feel grain surface”, a series of tiny bumps that increase the area in contact with our fingertips, thus registering it as soft and moist. Even without using costly fabrics the materials still successfully appeal to our senses.

Nissan’s elite sensory evaluators work to develop micro-grain and soft-feel grain surface in the vehicle interior, looking, touching and using things from the perspective of a driver or passenger. One of them, Akane Ban, has now performed her rigorous assessments 12,000 times over 6 years. Just like a magician she considers how can she create an illusion, and finally tests out whether the trick is detected in practice.

Nissan quantifies this feeling of comfort, and over and over repeats a cycle of inspection, measurement, analysis and design. Not only in Japan, Nissan’s team perseveres so that every one of its global bases will always be able to manufacture fully satisfactory products.

Think you can tell for which vehicle parts Nissan has “magically” enhanced tactile quality? Go on, we challenge you to take yourself to a Nissan showroom and check them out with your own eyes (and hands). You probably won’t see through the tricks – but we reckon you’ll think it still feels pretty good anyway.

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Computers, robots, lasers, sensors - the technology that goes into building a 21st century automobile would make a comic writer from yesteryear scramble for his notebook.

But he would also probably agree that, better than all the fantastic gizmos you could dream up, a surefire recipe for success is to make your hero a humble scientist, and give him superhuman powers.

Meet Takanobu Sakumoto, from Nissan's Vehicle Test Technology Development Division. He's a specialist in the sensory assessment of wind noise - the roar of wind and air as it whooshes past your car when you drive along.

And the cutting -edge technology he uses for his job?

His ears.

A moving car generates all kinds of sounds - engine noise, exhaust noise, road noise. And wind noise. And all those different sounds are muddled together into that familiar roar that reaches your ears as you drive along.

To most of us that's just the noise that cars make, but for Sakumoto each part in the noise has its own particular character, and his ears can distinguish and pinpoint each individual sound, like unraveling a tangle of threads.

Working either in experimental facilities, where Nissan's full-scale aerodynamic wind tunnel can generate winds of up to 270km/h, or out on real expressways, where he gets behind the wheel and literally chases the wind, Sakumoto's job is to listen.

And he has fine-tuned his listening abilities to the point where, while most of us begin to find it difficult to hear high-frequency sounds as we get older, he can pick out just one tiny abnormal sound from the whole wall of noise that a moving vehicle makes. And having heard it, he will then locate the source, perhaps a gap just a few millimeters across in a trim component, and find a solution to fix it.

Sakumoto once showed his superhuman style in his own home, when a tiny sound suddenly started to bother him. It was driving him crazy, and he tracked it down to the motor noise of his brand-new refrigerator.

He called the manufacturer and a repair technician came right over, but couldn't solve the problem. The sound was in a range that so few people notice that it wasn't anything that could be repaired.

Sakumoto could have just put it down to “occupational illness”, and lived with it, but of course, he found his own solution and quietened the offending buzz.

There's nothing quite like that feeling of excitement when you first take your new car out for a drive. At Nissan, we want to make that feeling last, and we believe the way to do that is try to take the quality of every little thing to the next level.

The noise your car makes is one of those things, and Takanobu Sakumoto is the man with superhuman ears who sorts it out. But such extravagant names just make him laugh.

According to Sakumoto, to do this job, you really just have to be a “car person.” He says what he needs for his job, and for Nissan's development work, is not superhuman ears, but an insatiable and enduring love for cars.

In the end, that's the kind of people who build Nissan's automobiles. Humble scientists with a passion for their work.

And perhaps just a little pinch of superhuman powers, too.

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The time is the early 1990s. After a long sea journey, a shipload of Nissan cars have arrived in Europe, and are waiting at the port to be moved to their final destinations. Above them, silhouetted against the pale northern sky, flocks of gulls and sea birds swoop and call... and poop.

And that is when the trouble started. Later research revealed that the oil in fish-eating birds' droppings causes it to stick firmly to paint, and eventually dissolve or soften it.

As the cars waited in the sun to be moved, the old droppings quickly dried and shrank, inflicting critical damage on what started out as a smooth coating.

The fleet of shiny new cars was ruined.

Of course, Nissan's paint research began long before 1990, and covers all kinds of substances that can harm paint, including insect juices, tree sap, pollen and acid rain.

Even so, that incident naturally spurred Nissan's researchers to step up their research efforts. They collected data from all around the world about the various causes of damage to paintwork, including gathering droppings from birds of all kinds, living all around the world, and painstakingly analyzing their constituents.

The development team found that different regions need different kinds of paint performance.

In North America, for example, there is an intense onslaught of chipping from small stones thrown up by the car in front, as well as damage from acid rain.

In Europe, paint must be strong against scratches. Not many people know this, but in some cases Nissan subtly tweaks the paint specification to suit the needs of the destination area.

Only Nissan goes to such lengths.

Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of the development team, Nissan's paint has been reborn, far tougher than it used to be, and it is now backed up by “Scratch Shield*”, a almost magic-like paint technology that guards the surface against blemishes, and even restores minor scratches over time.

Nissan's stance on paint development has moved on from the same old technology, constantly asking what will make a car's coating attractive to the customer.

The development team are researching, night and day, to create paint jobs that will make customers want to blurt out “Wow!” when they see a Nissan car.

So never mind about a little bird poop. A car that keeps its luster, however lazy you are about looking after it: that's the ultimate paint job that could be coming soon to Nissan cars.

*Scratch Shield is only available in certain countries and areas.

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The walls of the room are covered with facts, figures, graphs and grainy photographs of the scene of the crime, and on tables around the walls lie burned-out air cleaners, upholstery that has turned to powder, and engine parts cut in half so their innermost workings can be inspected.

But this is not the operations room of the local police department, but rather the entrance hall to Nissan's Field Quality Center.

The shocking exhibit of 30 or more broken or faulty vehicle parts and components are on display for anyone to view. Not only suppliers, but any visitor is free to browse a collection that puts much that Nissan has to regret over the years on show for all the world to see.

The thinking behind such transparency comes from Nissan's firm conviction that they must never make the same mistake twice.

Of course, it is a huge problem that errors were made in the first place. But what is even more important is what happens next. How to deal with the problem swiftly, and put things right. And more, how to ensure that new models will not be subject to the same mistakes.

When a vehicle with a fault is sent to the center, the staff will gather together to inspect it. These are the FQC “detectives”. They go through every single possibility, one by one, however small and irrelevant it might seem, to find the cause of each problem.

The faulty part is placed in a real vehicle, recreating the actual situation where the fault occurred as closely as possible, and the center staff, suppliers, development and manufacturing teams work together to find the cause of the problem, and fix it.

This process of asking “Why?” over and over is called Field Tree Analysis (FTA). Nowadays FTA is done on computers, but it used to be done on paper, and the resulting “tree” could sometimes be as large as several square meters in area.

There are times when the problem seems unsurmountable. For example there was a model that was sent to South America that had trouble starting. It was manufactured in Asia, and exported to several countries, but only in one was there a problem. What was happening to cause problems only there...?

The cause, it turned out, was the rain. Noise from the wipers, which should have had no relation at all to the starting mechanism, was damaging the diodes in the starting system, and causing it to fail.

Like detective work, it takes combing through all the endless possibilities in painstaking detail, and working with every relevant department and supplier, to find the cause of such apparently illogical faults.

The Japanese word “kaizen” has become a world standard for the philosophy of continuous improvement, and the staff at the seven FQCs around the world know that there is no end to their Quality Kaizen.

But the ultimate goal is vehicles with no faults at all, and to that end the detectives are constantly tracking down the culprits, and catching them one by one. At FQC, this determination to achieve the utmost quality, they believe, is the key to maintaining the customers' trust.

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Safety is paramount. Nobody would argue with that. But a car isn’t just some piece of machinery that carries things about. It must also be fun to drive, and enjoyable to ride in.

This is a story about how that passion for making cars both safe and exciting, and a chance discovery over breakfast, led to a breakthrough in Nissan’s brake technology.

One morning, Yuichi Murakami, who is currently an Expert Leader in the Total Customer Satisfaction Function team, was sipping his tea as he read the newspaper, when his eye fell on a small article.

It told of the investigation into an aviation incident that had happened several years before, and as Murakami read the article, his heart started beating fast.

The investigation, he read, concluded that the trouble had occurred because the plane had been flying on auto-pilot. Although the pilot had attempted to pull the nose of the plane up out of trouble, the automated mechanism had overridden him.

In other words, thought Murakami, if only the system had given precedence to the pilot not the machine, is it possible that he might have been able to control the plane that day?

It was at that moment that Murakami was convinced that the electronic accelerator system he was currently involved in developing must, in the last instance, be a system that respected human will.

That conviction lead to Nissan developing their Brake Override System before any other Japanese car manufacturer. The system ensures that, should both the electronic accelerator pedal and brake pedal be pushed at the same time, engine power is reduced, and the brake is always given precedence.

But who would brake and accelerate at the same time? That doesn’t seem like a very common scenario. And it’s true that in normal driving it is very unlikely to occur. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. What if something was to jam against the gas pedal, or for some reason the system was to malfunction and the accelerator stuck...?

To ensure that the car will stop safely whatever the situation, currently every Nissan vehicle with an electronic accelerator* is fitted with the Brake Override System.

But Nissan’s system doesn’t forget the needs of serious drivers, either. Should the brake and accelerator be applied at the same time, while providing for safety above all else, for a very short instant - enough for a truly experienced driver - the system gives the driver the option to decide.

That consideration of the customer’s needs is what Nissan is all about.

As computers take over our machines more and more, human’s are inclined to believe that they don’t need to do anything for themselves to remain safe... But that kind of thinking puts too much trust in the machine.

The manufacturer has a duty to make the customer understand to what extent the system will do the work, and what must be left down to human judgement. The key focus of Nissan’s research in the future is to ensure customers’ safety while delivering the very best.

But the belief that humans should have the final say will always be at the core of their work.

*not including OEM

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Soccer: the sport that makes the world cheer. On the pitch, 23 players. Eleven on each team, and the all important referee.

The rules of soccer are shared the world over, and the referee refers to the 17 articles in the competition rules, which lay out specifications for the pitch and the ball, scoring methods and more, all of which are explained in a 50-page manual. It's only thanks to these shared rules that global-scale tournaments can be held without dissolving into confusion.

Just like soccer regulations, there are rules at Nissan for making cars. This global standard is called the Alliance Vehicle Evaluation Standard (AVES). There are currently 350 AVES check items, and 350 auditors keeping watch over Nissan automobile quality at production centers in 27 countries worldwide.

Before AVES was introduced, car manufacturing at Nissan was a world of artisans. There were no clear stipulated rules, and cars were simply made with the talent of the craftspeople, and sent out into the world.

But gradually production numbers grew, and the number of employees grew, too. To become a global company, Nissan had to be able to manufacture a high quality car in large quantities, and at production bases all over the world.

So AVES was implemented, to define a clear common language, and standardize Nissan quality in the eyes of the customer.

The foundations for AVES were laid out in 1981. In 1988, the items were separated into static and dynamic categories. And on the alliance with Renault in 1999, it reached the form it takes today.

The first checks come in the prototype stage, and are carried out a total of four times before the vehicle is ready to ship. Two certified auditors assess absolutely everything, from the viewpoint of the customer. During the driving evaluation they scrupulously split the work between the driver's seat and the back seat.

And if a car doesn't clear AVES, even if all the preparations have been put into place to begin selling it, the new model can't be shipped.

It is this powerful authority to show a red card that ensures the highest quality across all Nissan's vehicles.

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A bumpy Italian cobblestone street, a Papua New Guinea dirt road, those notorious Brazilian potholes, and America's manhole covers, famous for the damage they do to a car's suspension... Would you believe it if you were told you could drive through all these conditions in one go? Well, at Nissan's Tochigi Testing Ground, they do just that, every day.

The vast, 2,922,000m2 grounds feature unique road conditions such as manhole covers and curb stones, over ten types of road surfaces - concrete roads, cobblestones, gravel roads, and a 6.5km high speed endurance test course.

Every new model that Nissan sends out into the world is put through its paces here.

To date, Nissan staff have travelled to approximately 65 countries to research road surfaces and test conditions. At each survey site, they meet with several hundred customers and spend a week interviewing them and observing behavior patterns. They also survey the types of driving surfaces, and distances driven.

Then they outfit a demonstration model with measuring instruments and drive the course themselves. The burden experienced by the car on the road surface is converted into data, and that country is given a number rating.

This experience is then recreated in Tochigi, and tests are run using new models optimized for those conditions.

Over the course of the development of a single model, it is no exaggeration to say that enough distance is logged in testing to drive around the world several hundred times.

A car is made up of tens of thousands of parts. To eliminate every bug, produce something of the highest quality and durability, and deliver a safe car to the customer wherever she lives, a new Nissan vehicle is driving the world's roads at the Tochigi Testing Ground again today.

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We’re at a car dealership on the weekend. There’s a man sometimes standing, sometimes squatting, doggedly gazing at the cars. At the television section of an electronics store, one man scrutinizes the backs of the LCD TVs one by one, a satisfied expression materializing on his face. Both scenes have a slightly mysterious air. Or there’s the man in the department store, carefully stroking clothes, examining the fabric and tags. His level of concentration is impressive, but just what Eureka moment is he searching for in a fashion boutique?

They’re not shopping, though they are thoroughly probing the products. They touch things almost like they are memorizing how it feels. Their faces are serious, yes, yet also a bit suspect. But hold up before you go and get security. These people are researching what gives something a “good vibe”. They are Nissan’s “epicureans”.

When you see a vehicle you may think, “Wow, that’s a well-made and classy car!” Or that moment when you sit in the seat and feel, “Hmm, this is comfy.” True quality in a car calls on our human sensibilities. A car is not just about its driving performance. It’s also about that instinctive feeling of “Yeah!” you get with a vehicle. This is Perceived Quality.

And it’s a brave band of brothers, the Perceived Quality Department, whose task it is to seek out that feeling and raise the bar on vehicle satisfaction. Those mysterious sightings we introduced at the start? Well, that’s just a typical scene in the working life of these researchers, devoted even in their everyday life to finding which materials feel best from the perspective of the customer, or with what kind of stitching you can feel the level of quality in the product. In addition to their observations, they also photograph other cars and study the giant images. It’s their epicurean task to find the value that appeals to our sensibilities, often casting their eyes on those places we don’t consciously look at: A radiator grille, panel welding, or even instrument panels.

Based on their research they create values for quality higher than other makers’, digitize it, and set target values, the “PQ Score”, for each car under development. In the wake of all the pressure from the conditions of material and layout, as a car gets closer to production vehicle level, the PQ Score may drop below the criteria. That’s when the Perceived Quality Department gets the call. Holding conferences with the design and manufacturing teams they present solutions that still retain a PQ Score standard better than competitors’. With their ten years plus of PQ research under their belts they can always pinpoint the most sentient of panaceas.

But PQ research doesn’t just stop when the model goes on sale. The PQ Score is assessed and verified according to the response of customers, as the criteria are made to anticipate a new car coming onto the market years from now. The epicureans specialize in creating future values based on their experience and know-how built up over a long time. From planning through to the post-sales period, the PQ team constantly keeps watch on cars from the perspective of PQ.

We can notice the results in the Nissan PATROL. Take a look at the vehicle’s headlamp and you’ll see the way in which PQ was used to produce a sense of quality and luxury. You can really feel the brightness of the main beam and the light appears like it will shine far off into the distance. The concave-convex texture and knurled design render an impression that is premium, sophisticated.

The symmetry in the PATROL’s speedometer is the secret for why it is so easy to read, with the equal spacing between the scales allowing you to immediately understand the display. The font type and white coloring also look classy. But this is only one example. In fact, PQ is being integrated into every Nissan car.

The unusual epicureans we spotted at the start are checking the backs of televisions because it’s part of their quest to look at all the details, even where we can’t see, never cutting corners in their mission to make the best. Even with clothing, you acquire a sense of product quality from the level of stitching in the garment.

Epicureans always seek out values that our sensibilities demand, never satisfied with the status quo. Endlessly on the look out for quality, for luxury, for the best – the off-shot is that they say they just can’t make regular shopping purchases anymore, since they judge products so strictly! However, it’s thanks to this sense of constant inquiry they have that Nissan’s quality is forever advancing. Serious, methodical and astute. They are the epicurean adventurers.

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