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Nissan Style

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Nissan
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Nissan Style

Bill Crittenden
November 26, 2013


Oh, here we go again.  Nissan has done up the already controversially styled Juke with a high performance Nismo version.  And the world has a fit, publicly, on Twitter.

Here's the funny thing about that...

Most mass-market car companies, General Motors in particular, water down the styling if their cars after concept form so that as few people as possible are turned off by some element of it or another.  But by doing that, they're also making sure nobody really loves it, either.  They're bland, and by pretending to hit all markets (performance, economy, environment, family practicality) for the widest possible consumer base they usually end up doing poorly in most of them.

It reminds me of the McDonald's pizza experiment of the 80's or Burger King selling tacos a few years ago.  They both were extraordinary failures.  Just do what you're best at, do it amazingly well, and you'll find extraordinary success.  Staying with the food metaphor, Chef Robert Irvine goes to diners with 10 page menus and clears them out of all the crap they don't do well but feel that they must have on the menu.  Why do they feel they have to have everything?  So nobody that comes in the door feels disappointed.  But guess what?  Frozen crap warmed over buy a guy who makes that dish once every two weeks is going to be disappointing.  Contrast that to Chick-Fil-A or Five Guys.  Do one thing amazingly, and there's a line out the door.

Nissan has broken the mass-market mold of trying to be all things to all people.  Especially in styling.  I know so many people who absolutely hate the Cube, but there were so many that showed up at a Nissan dealership with a "shut up and take my money!" attitude that it was a success.

The same goes for the entire Infiniti brand.  Casting off marketing environment and practicality, they focus on luxury and performance (and poking fun at Lexus drivers).  They are definitely not the "Generic Luxury Car" that Lexus makes, so wonderfully mocked by a commercial with an Infiniti G35 in a parking lot full of beige Lexus ESes.

I loved the Nissan Quest.  A generation ago, it was the sports car of minivans, and today the tall and square-sided version stands out in a parking lot like a Frank Lloyd Wright on a block of McMansions.

Then we find ourselves at the Juke.  So many people don't know what to make of its headlights that look like oversized foglights, or the taillights that are part of the silhouette of the car at certain angles.  But everybody knows what it is and has an opinion of it.  Mostly negative, but a car capable of evoking such strong emotions will find positive among the negative (even today, there are die-hard Edsel and Pontiac Aztek fans).  Now in the Nismo form, the styling is even further "out there."  But at a time of year when automakers are screaming for attention on their concepts and new designs, the little Juke grabs an oversized share of the attention.

I suppose you can count me among the folks that love a lot of the newer Nissan styles.  I know I'm vastly outnumbered by those who hate them, but by the number of Nissans I see on the streets these days they're finding plenty enough buyers, and Nissan is wise enough to make enough cars for the people who love them to stay in business rather than water themselves down to chase sales numbers and drown.

Personally, my favorite classic Nissans are the purple 300ZX and the Bay Side Blue R-34 Skyline.  Any Skyline is welcome in my garage, just based on history and rarity in the U.S., though.

As mentioned before, the last 2 models of the Quest interest me.  Nissan really got my attention when they came out with the radically restyled for 2002 Frontier pickup truck, followed by the torque-heavy Sentra SE-R, a departure from the popular sport compact formula.  I'd love a Cube painted up as a Calsonic Skyline as a business vehicle.

I loved that the little Altima had more power than my father-in-law's Earnhardt Monte Carlo AND came with a stick shift, even though the styling since that generation has been a deep letdown for me (but as I've been saying, that's all personal taste).

Oh, yeah, and the epic GT-R.  What can I possibly say about that car that hasn't already been written?

I pretty much love anything that Infiniti puts out, even the older cars going back to the 90's.  The Versa is a disappointment, though, as it seems too much like the Toyota Echo, and far too conventional.

Another great disappointment is the lack of Renault.  I know from personal experience living with a 1984 Alliance for the summer that Renault is in a deep hole in America as far as reputation goes.  But I also know from their reputation abroad that they build some great vehicles that America just never got to see (imagine your impression of Ford being based only on a 1988 Tempo). Fiat is taking advantage of its Chrysler connection, selling Fiat 500s out of Chrysler dealerships where there isn't enough of a market to build a Fiat dealership.  I'd love to see some Nissan dealerships add Renault to their repertoire.  It's too bad they still don't make the Avantime, that car looked like so much fun!

What a great pairing, by the way.  Nissan's un-watered-down concept car styling and Renault's occasional art-on-wheels styling.  Two companies that really understand the emotion that can go into a car purchase!



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