David Woodhouse of Nissan Design America on Nissan Design

By Gary S. Vasilash

David Woodhouse is Nissan Design America vice president of Design, a position that he’s held since June 2019. Prior to joining Nissan Woodhouse held a number of senior design positions at Ford, including as director of Design at Lincoln and design director for its Global Strategic Design function.

Put simply, Woodhouse is well versed in automotive design. (He also races, so this is more than theoretical to him: he knows what makes something good.)

He began his professional design career in 1994 (at BMW), so he’s been around long enough to know what’s going on without having been around so long that he isn’t resistant to what’s going on.

Nissan—including Infiniti—is an interesting place to be as it is a full-line manufacturer with utes, pickups, sedans, sports cars, and EVs in its portfolio. There’s the Nissan Versa at one end of the spectrum and the Infiniti QX80 at the other.

2023 Nissan Ariya interior (Image: Nissan)

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Woodhouse talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Eric Noble, founder and president of automotive consultancy The CARLAB, and me about some of the new developments at Nissan—like the electric Ariya and the forthcoming Z—and his view in a more macro sense of what’s going on in car design.

In something of a departure from other interviews, Woodhouse also answers a couple questions from transportation design students at ArtCollege School of Design (Noble is on the faculty there).

One of the intriguing things about Nissan’s design approach is that they are embracing the heritage of the company, using what Woodhouse calls “J DNA,” with the single letter standing for “Japanese.” For example, the interior of the Ariya is meant to be comfortable like the room of a house, so the Japanese Omotenashi approach to hospitality was taken into account when executing the interior design.

During the second half of the show, McElroy, Noble and I discuss a variety of topics, including Ford’s separating its ICE and EV operations, the February vehicle sales (a SAAR of 14 million: not good), the consequences of rising petroleum prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the competitive space in electric vehicles (with this last bit being somewhat. . .lively).

And you can see the whole show right here.

Why OEMs Build EVs and Other Things You Think You Know That Probably Aren’t the Case

A lively discussion of things from why Americans don’t buy small, cheap cars and why OEMs aren’t likely to get a big revenue stream from sending data to vehicle head-units

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although there is a whole lot of development going on in the electric vehicle (EV) space, as OEMs announce products and plans with what seems to border on giddiness, maybe things aren’t what they seem.

Consider, for one example, the F-150 Lightning reveal. While it might seem as though every person on your street is likely to replace their gasoline-powered F-150 with an electric one as soon as is practical (even though there is a starting MSRP of $40,000, and even though $40,000 is pretty much the average cost of a vehicle, it is still $40,000), even though people are touting the frunk that will allow them to fill it up with ice and beverages and the power outlets that will permit the audio equipment to be plugged in for parties and picnics, when you listen to Eric Noble, founder and president of The Car Lab, what seems to be the case may not be the case.

The F-150 Lightning in what is a natural environment: a work site. (Image: Ford)

That is, Noble points out that largely because of EV batteries—“They are expensive, huge, very heavy and don’t store very much energy”—especially the cost part, OEMs don’t make money on EVs unless these EVs are priced so highly that the cost of the battery can be buried in the MSRP.

Noble argues that because of the zero-emissions mandate of California and the other states that follow California’s lead in emissions regulations, OEMs that want to sell vehicles in those states—including vehicles with a 5.0-liter V8 under the hood—need to sell zero-emissions vehicles: EVs.

What is the number on the sales forecasts that OEMs have for EVs, he rhetorically asks.

Pretty much what the number of EVs required by the ZEV states are for that particular OEM.

However, he points out that there could be some real business for OEMs when it comes to selling to fleets. (“Ford is good at fleets,” Noble says.)

In other words, Teslas and Mustang Mach Es notwithstanding (and I don’t know whether the champagne need be busted out for the Mach E quite yet because in April Ford sold 1,951 Mach Es and 8,000 regular Mustangs), things like the Lightning are likely to be more oriented toward places where they can do the OEM the most good, which very well may be in fleet applications.

Noble talks about this on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.” And many of his arguments are bolstered by observations by Sam Fiorani, vice president of Global Vehicle Forecasting, AutoForecast Solutions.

Also on the table are other subjects of the moment, like over-the-air updates (not likely to be a revenue stream for OEMs because customers don’t want to have a monthly charge to their credit cards, why tech companies won’t become auto companies and vice versa, and a whole lot more.

Per usual, “Autoline’s” John McElroy and I are engaged in the conversation with these guests, and it is one of the livelier discussions you are like to see about the state of the industry—the reality versus the proclamations.

And you can see it here.