By on December 7, 2011

Checking out the competition has a great tradition at auto shows. Executives usually try to avoid doing it in front of rolling cameras. They don’t want to end up like Volkswagen’s Winterkorn, who immortalized himself in his “Da scheppert nix” candid camera video, while admiring the non-rattling steering column of the latest Hyundai.

Now imagine the dropped jaws at Nissan when the crew at Nissan’ Global Media Center floated the crazy idea to have their own walk around of the Tokyo Motor Show, and to – gasp – say good things about the competition?

They found one executive who is always good for crazy ideas: Francois Bancon. Bancon is officially „Deputy Divisional GM for Product Strategy” at Nissan. In truth, the consummate Frenchman and enfant terrible of Yokohama is chief designer chez Nissan. Being around him is always good for a laugh, a tidbit of previously unpublished news, or, all of the above and a great dinner.

Who would be better suited as a tour guide than debonair Bancon? Using competitors’ cars as examples, he shows where the industry is going. Or could be going.

Bancon on Toyota’s Aqua (Prius C):

“This is interesting. You know that Honda launched the Insight some years ago with a very attractive price with the hybrid system. And, of course, Toyota will never accept that anyone is better than them in the hybrid category and this is the answer. It’s a compact car, about 4.1 meters [in length] targeting a price tag of about 1.5 or 1.6 million yen, which is really impressive. And I’m not sure they’re going to make any money out of this, but, anyway, this is Toyota.”

Bancon on Toyota’s FT-EV III:

If you remember, well, some years ago, Toyota was explaining that EV would never work because the only solution is a hybrid. So, they now have EV all over the place, starting with iQ, which is an existing model – 3 meters long, which is sold in Europe, Japan, and I think that’s it for now. And they have now an EV version. Nothing special. We were also playing in this category with some product to come. The idea is to make EV affordable for everyone, for the urban environment. “

Bancon on Toyota’s 86 Hachiroku:

“The 86 was 30 years ago a kind of emblem of the sports car by Toyota – an affordable sports car. So they made a deal with Subaru to supply the four-cylinder flat architecture, and they came up with this car – which is, I have to say, well done – for the four-cylinder rear-wheel drive about 200 horsepower. It’s a good initiative… in terms of communicating the brand of Toyota back to some sports car heritage.”

Bancon on Volkswagen’s Cross Coupé:

“This is a concept car made by Volkswagen, the so-called Cross Coupé. This is interesting – a kind of crossover between Juke and Qashqai. And with a kind of new design execution, which somehow has some inspiration from what Land Rover did recently on a compact crossover story. I think that should work. Obviously, this is for Europe and a little bit for Japan. Now, will Volkswagen be able to deliver on cost and price? That may be the next challenge for them. But the idea is interesting.”

Tomorrow: Bancon talks nicely about Honda, Suzuki and Mercedes-Benz.

 

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