When the weekend comes, takes out his instrument. Depending on his mood, the chief creative officer for Nissan and Infiniti plays classical music on his cello, or jazz on his upright bass. Sometimes, he plays with his favorite partner — his wife is also a musician.
I sat next to Nakamura at a dinner following the global debut of the Infiniti JX Concept at Pebble Beach. While, Nakamura, was inclined to speak about the design directives for Infiniti, he was more than happy to discuss his favorite jazz clubs, and eager for tips on new spots to check out on his travels to New York and Los Angeles.
The Jazz Standard, Iridium and are favorite stops in New York City. At one time, when he was in college in the 1960s, Nakamura said he considered pursuing a career as a musician, idolizing bassist Ron Carter and listening to Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock albums.
In many way the skills required of a musician and an automotive designer are congruent. Both must be able to find texture and soul in numbers. For musicians the sheet music provides the counts and note measure for measure, with directives on tempo and sound — allegro, adagio, and crescendo. For the car designer, aerodynamics and specs are dictated, along with directives about the function the car needs to fulfill from the marketing and product planning teams. The end result in both cases is a balance of feeling and function compiled by a group of players, as the song or the vehicle comes to life.
For Nakamura, a well-executed car design must communicate emotion. “If you cannot draw your car in a few brush strokes, you have failed,” he said. He said he has sent many designers back to the drafting tables armed with a thin paint brush to achieve basic form. Nakamura doesn’t claim to be an artist, but he watches other fields closely for inspiration. He is moved by architecture, favoring modernism. He worked with on the company headquarters in Yokahama. (The son of a famous Japanese architect was also a dinner guest at the Lodge.)
Speaking about the Infiniti JX Concept, he said the vehicle will only be sold in America. “It is influenced by nature, like all of our designs,” he said. He lives outside of Tokyo on the sea, and carves out time to look out into the water. Interestingly, the sloping lines on rear window and trunk of the JX Concept resemble a wave crest. He pointed out how essential form is to his vision, embodied in full curves. “Like a woman,” he said.
Nakamura doesn’t have as much time for playing music as he would like. He has a team of several hundred designers scattered at studios around the globe in London, San Diego, China and Japan, with about a dozen managers that report directly to him. Much of his time is spent traveling, discussing future plans and his vision. He said plans are in the works to grow Infiniti’s presence in the global market.
Infiniti also unveiled the Etherea for American media and a production version of the IPL G convertible was announced.
More details from our conversation from another guest at the .