Interview with Alfonso Albaisa: Infiniti’s executive design director

AW: First of all, can you tell us what really influenced you in initiating the new design signature on Infiniti vehicles?
AA: I don't know if it's because my background is fine arts, so I've always had that sense of sculpture in my mind. In automotive sense, the art of making coach, it is the moving of the body and nature. In Infiniti it is an easy match, because in the premium world the sense of exclusivity and bespoke plays a major role. So, it is not basically a matter of technicality, but a sense of humanity. My father was an architect and my mother was a big fan of arts. My mother used to buy a lot of Michelangelo art books. I used to be the shy boy who was in his bedroom and then I used to draw the body of Adam. My communication with my team is through drawing and sculptures.

AW: Generally, inside automakers the designers fight to get their design into production with the engineers. Lately, we have seen that the production models are quite close to their concept models. What do you say about that?
AA: Usually I'm a nice guy; [laughing] they want to help me, they see a sad face. It is about timing in our case, because when I came on board it happens to be when engineers were looking at what they can do to celebrate engineering. As you can see on the new Infiniti Q60 Coupe, specifically on the doors, that's pure engineering. The doors close in less than one millimeter. In our process we make six models, then three models and finally one model. People were seeing our concept models and were astonished; take, for instance, the Essence concept - and then we don't make it. Now we shifted. We really want the show cars to be the real ones. The section of the door, precisely the door handle of the Infiniti Q60 Coupe, is the same as the Essence.

AW: Were you involved directly in the Q50 Eau Rouge concept? And what's the difference in terms of design between the Q50 Eau Rouge and the Q60 Coupe?
AA: Yes, it was part of my first show car. What we did for the Q50 Eau Rouge was the beginning of the project, because we were in the drawing phase. And this color of red, like the blood or the bull, and the muscles and intensity of Eau Rouge, we want it to be similar in the Q60 Coupe.

AW: If you look at Infiniti vehicles now, do you think that your design is somehow youth-oriented? How do you think this new design signature will help Infiniti to sell more vehicles?
AA: What I know in the past is that we used to sell vehicles to 50-year-old men and the second largest demographic to buy cars, is the people in their thirties. We needed to bring the brand towards that way, even though this is a coupe, we will have the range of people of 35 years old to 50. What was the real challenge for us is the Q30, because how would we take the formality of the language and make it smaller and young looking? Q30 was spontaneous in terms of design and it was the most fun for us. Everything is artistry and technical precision, but the flavor is changing.

AW: What are you working on now as a concept that might end up in production?
AA: As you can see, in the portfolio there are a lot of cars that are getting old now in terms of design. So, you can assume that we are working on them.

AW: How big is your team? From which studio came the Q60 Coupe?
AA: We have four studios: China, California, London, and, of course, Japan. We are over two hundred in Infiniti, and Nissan group around 700 hundred plus. Q60 Coupe came from the design studio in Japan. The designer is Japanese and is young-mind oriented. He used to be a nightclub owner.

AW: If you had to choose one design that you really appreciate in another car manufacturer, what would you pick?
AA: I love the dream of Italy or the reality of Italy. Let's say the FCA group in that case. I tend to lean towards the late '50s and '60s Italian designs. I love cars generally. As far as driving is concerned, I love the way BMW cars drive in the sense of the car is a machine. In Infiniti we are a little more romantic, so myself, I have a consciousness of everything. I think the world is so open. So, if I had to admit it straightforward, it is the Italians. The Latin design really attracts me historically, especially the Alfa Romeo 8C. I'm fascinated by the 911 Targa too. To me, it is like a nice glass of water, so pure and so simple.

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