The Truth About Cars » Francois Bancon The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:28:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Francois Bancon New York 2012: Infiniti Shows The First Plug-In Which You Don’t Have To Plug In Anymore Thu, 05 Apr 2012 15:35:51 +0000 Nissan waited until the second press day of the New York Auto Show. They did not want their all-electric Infiniti sedan to drown in the floods of other reveals. They should not have worried.

When the wraps came off what is still called an “LE Concept,” a stunningly styled sedan emerged. It has sexy curves similar to those of the Emerg-e range extender that was shown in Geneva. A car like this, backed by the production prowess of Japan’s second-largest automaker, should worry prospective producers of all-electric luxury sedans.

Nissan’s Leaf provides the electric Infiniti with the all-important economies of scale. However, Nissan’s “Division General Manager of Exploratory and Advanced Product,” Francois Bancon, denies hackneyed intimations that the LE will just be a rebodied Leaf:

The LE Concept is designed from the ground up as an Infiniti, not a re-badged Nissan. There will potentially be some shared components, but they will be configured specifically for use in the Infiniti EV.”

Range and performance are still kept under wraps.  “It will drive, feel and perform like an Infiniti,” says a sibylline Andy Palmer, who just recently was put in charge of the Nissan’s Global Infiniti unit. Name, production details, price are likewise kept secret.

Good looking as it is, this is not a show car. They call it a ‘production intent’ concept, a car they actually want to produce. Folks at Infiniti are positive that the yet unnamed electric Infiniti will be launched in 2014. Palmer says it is a global car that first “will be available in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.” He did not want to comment on China, understandable, given the in-flux state of Chinese production for Nissan’s luxury marque.

The LE will most likely be the first plug-in which you don’t have to plug in. In addition to a regular corded charger and a DC fast charge option, the LE can be charged without wires. Infiniti’s  U.S. VP Ben Poore explains:

“The LE Concept includes a built-in wireless charging system, we expect it to be the first home-based wireless charging system. All you have to do is park your vehicle over the charging pad with no need to connect cables.”

This is a truly exciting system: Through a coil in the garage floor, a magnetic field is created. This excites an electric current in a second coil in the LE, which then charges the batteries. Infiniti promises that the high-frequency charging is safe for children and pets, and can be installed easily in a home garage. The batteries will sit under the passenger compartment floor, delivering a low center of gravity, a lot of trunk space, and room for the high net-worth legs.

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Voluptuous Lateral Air Intakes: TTAC Talks To The Father Of The Infiniti EMERG-E, The World’s Sexiest Range Extender Tue, 06 Mar 2012 09:30:55 +0000 “This is Infiniti’s design language for the next 10 years to come,” says Francois Bancon, and points at a laptop that shows pictures and strategy of the INFINITI EMERG-E, a concept car that debuts today in Geneva.

We are in Yokohama, on the fifth floor of Nissan’s corporate world headquarters, while Infiniti’s first range extended mid-ship concept sports car is unveiled in Switzerland. It is there, I am told “to provide a glimpse into Infiniti’s future.” The future is undecided. This car may, or may not come.

The design of the car oozes seductive sex. That, thankfully, will rub off on the whole Infiniti line, I hear.

Will the Emerge lead Nissan to a range extended future? “Not necessarily,” says Bancon, with the best sybillinic smile he can muster.

Bancon’s title is “Division General Manager of Exploratory and Advanced Product.” That is one of the longest titles I have seen in the industry, and Bancon indicates that I haven’t seen all of his titles. Bancon, dressed in a sweat shirt and sporting a two day beard, is a rare combination of an artist, an engineer, and a manager. The graduate of the of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts in Paris had worked as a designer for Renault. It is unusual for a designer to climb that high on the corporate ladder.

Using the artist name Phoebe, Bancon still takes time to produce and show art and photography, and to blog about his work. Once an artist, always an artist. Even if he is one of the few who climbed that high on the corporate ladder.

Bancon has been living in Japan for 12 years. “I came in 1999 with Carlos Ghosn and I am still here,” he says. He has had a number of unusual titles that probably never truly covered what Bancon really did at Nissan. “General Manager, Perceived Quality Department, Global Design Center” was only one of them.

“We call it exploratory planning,” says Bancon when asked what he really does. “We are developing directions the company should follow, long term, mid-term. The EMERG-E is part of this exploration.”

The EMERG-E is the first Infiniti that has been developed in Europe. The design was done at Nissan Design Europe in London. The design itself is Japan seen through the eyes of an American.

After more than 50 proposals from Infiniti studios in Japan, the UK and California were handed in, Bancon and the rest of the brass at Nissan picked the work of California-based Infiniti designer Randy Rodriguez as the winning design. Other designers sketch dream cars. Rodriguez penned an erotic dream car. I learn that the EMERG-E took its design cues from the nape of the neck of Japanese women. I had learned separately that the neck is “considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality.” Even Infiniti’s press kit gets with the X-rated program and talks about “the sensuous, hourglass squeeze” of the cockpit, and the “subtly voluptuous lateral air intakes.” Even the 400 bhp turn an exercise in cross dressing bestilaty. The EMERG-E is, says Francois Bancon, like “400 wild horses in a silky dress.” This is a car that makes us explore sexual fantasies, and I am all for that.

The technology of the EMERG-E was lead-managed by Nissan’s European Technical Centre (NTCE), in Cranfield near London. The decision to have the car developed in England was a practical one. Says Bancon:

“There was some kind of a collaboration with the Technology Strategy Board in the UK. They wanted to promote their technologies, and with Nissan being the number one carmaker in the UK, it was natural for them to collaborate with us and for us to collaborate with them. Collaborating did not save us so much money, but it saved us a lot of time.”

The UK government’s Technology Strategy Board introduced Infiniti to a range of suppliers that would provide innovative hardware and specialized knowledge. One of Nissan’s suppliers of engineering advice is Lotus. Bancon is not worried that they also make cars.

“We have a long relationship with Lotus. We have worked with them a lot on pre-studies. They do their car, we do our car, but we share the heart of the technology.”

Bancon quickly pre-empts foolish ideas that the EMERG-E might just be a Lotus under a sexy silky gown:

“I have never seen the car Lotus did. They have never seen this car. We use their Evora platform to save time. The platform is not crucial for us, we could use our own platform. The key were the electric components, being able to use those was a real timesaver.”

The average buyer of a luxury car is between 50 and 60 years old. “In some markets, the Infiniti buyer is more 60 than 50,” says Bancon. “China is THE exception, the luxury buyers in China are young, 30-35 years. We want to reposition Infiniti, targeting the young buyer.”

The modern affluent buyer may not always have amassed the wealth in a socially harmonious manner, but that buyer wants to have a clean green conscience at least. He wants a “hot, yet clean sports car,” as Bancon condenses it. Infiniti offers guilt-free performance to that rarified demographic. The car promises what Bancon calls “the power of silence.” If that range-extended car is ever sold, it will provide 30 pure electric miles before the ICE is heard from. In the words of Bancon, “you can drive it in London in the congestion charge area without paying, and you can open up on the track.”

Bancon had three choices to deliver that green clean conscience:

“One is battery EV. This has limitations in power and autonomy. Not the best for a sportscar.

Then there is the plug-in hybrid. This is a very promising technology.

The range extender is in competition with the plugin-in hybrid. Basically the same technology. Main difference: The range extender is an EV. There is no connection between the ICE and the wheel. The ICE is just a battery charger.

There are some pros and some cons, the cons being weight and cost. A range extender needs a big battery. Big battery means cost and weight.”

When building the EMERG-E, the engineers fought a constant battle with weight. Bancon remembers:

“If we would build this car the normal way, it would easily weigh 2.2 tonnes (4,850 lbs.) This car weighs 1.6 tonnes (3.500 lbs). How did we do this? The upper body is entirely in carbon fiber. Our objective was 50 percent carbon fiber for the mass production car, and we did it.”

This car being a concept, or what Bancon calls “an exploration,” he doesn’t have to contend with the second problem yet – money. Using carbon fiber to slim down the car does not make it cheaper. If it is ever built, the EMERG-E will remain a toy for the affluent, and that’s o.k. for Bancon. He won’t need big numbers for that car, he already played a leading role during the development and launch of the Leaf.

Will the EMERG-E ever go in production? The answer is yes. Two will be built.

Says Bancon:

“Usually, a concept car is just for the show. This car is not just a styling exercise. We will be building two driving prototypes, one for Europe and one to go around the world, starting in the U.S.“

Come June or July, even I could be behind the wheel of an EMERG-E, promises Bancon. “If Nathalie lets you.”

And he points at Infiniti’s Global Communications Manager Nathalie Greve, who comes in to say that the interview is over.




Motor type (synchronous), Twin rotor motors, one per rear rear wheel

EVO Electric Synchronous DC Brushless drive

Motor peak power, revs 150kW per motor (300kW total for vehicle) available for 30s or less. Flat distribution of power circa 3000 RPM upwards

Motor peak torque, revs 1000Nm

ICE cylinders, capacity Lotus 3-cylinders, 1.2litre

ICE peak power, revs 35kW at 3500rpm

ICE peak torque, revs 107Nm at 2500rpm

Transmission Xtrac Single-speed (4.588:1 reduction box)

Battery type Lithium-ion phosphate

Battery capacity 300 kW

Peak power 1000 amps

Energy 14.8kW/h (at 25deg)

Recharge time (from 13amps) 10 hours

(6 hours at 16amps)

Fuel tank capacity (litres) 30.6litres

Chassis and Body

Construction Bonded, extruded aluminium chassis, carbon fibre bodywork

Length 4464mm

Width 1954mm

Height 1219mm

Wheelbase 2624mm

Weight 1598 kg

Drag coefficient 0.340 Cd

Suspension, front Forged aluminium double wishbone suspension. Front Anti-roll bar. Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs.

Suspension, rear Forged aluminium double wishbone suspension. Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs.

Brakes, front Ventilated disc, 350mm dia

Brakes, rear Ventilated disc.332mm dia

Steering Rack and pinion

Assistance Electro Hydraulic PAS

Wheels 8J x 19” dia. (Front)

9.5J x 20” dia. (Rear)

Tyres 235/35 r19 (front)

275/30 r20 (rear)


0-60mph 4.0sec

0-130mph 30.0sec

Max speed 130mph

Range, EV mode 30 miles

Full range 300 miles

CO2 emissions, EV mode Zero

CO2 emissions, r-e mode 55g/km (NEDC cycle)

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Walking The Tokyo Motor Show With Nissan’s Enfant Terrible, Part Deux Thu, 08 Dec 2011 09:45:18 +0000

Yesterday, you had your private tour of the Tokyo Motor Show, and you could not find a more competent and entertaining  tour guide  than Nissan’s head designer Francois Bancon. (Officially, „Deputy Divisional GM for Product Strategy.”) The former Renault man has seen the world. He was a Frenchman of the first hour at Nissan.

If you want to see the Japanese market through European eyes, then please tag along for part deux of the tour, where Bancon talks about Suzuki, Honda, and Daimler.  Listen closely to what Bancon says about Daimler.  Renault/Nissan and Daimler have an alliance, and Bancon knows where it is heading

Executive summary for the video-impaired:

Bancon on Suzuki’s Swift EV Hybrid

“The Swift is not a hybrid, but a range-extender, a series hybrid. Swift is a very successful, a good car that is successful in India, somehow in Europe and a little bit less in Japan.  You have an internal combustion engine powertrain exclusively used to recharge a battery. The car is a normal, rear-wheel powertrain. It’s a smart technology – it’s also an expensive technology. So, I’m not sure how much they’re going to price for this. But the idea is interesting in a compact package.”

Bancon on Honda’s N-Concept:

“This is a kei car category. The most important segment is what we call the high-wagon kei car. Honda was not there. So, now they decide to enter because the kei car is about 40% of the passenger vehicles in Japan, and they were not in the most promising category, so they went now back on track with the N-series and they’re going to compete with our Roox. It’s a box with wheels and you’re done.”

Bancon on the Mercedes and Ducati motorbike partnership:

This is interesting because Mercedes is not a bike maker, as opposed to their main competitor in Germany. And they did this collaboration with Ducati and this is just a monster. And this is not by chance that Mercedes is also promoting the AMG series. I think they are pushing this direction to communicate the kind of high level of performance for the Mercedes brand. AMG was in Frankfurt, in Paris, now in Tokyo. It’s a kind of emblem, a kind of direction in which Mercedes wants to position themselves.”

Bancon on the Mercedes B-Class:

“This is interesting because this is a new-generation platform for Mercedes. This is also the platform for which we have some discussion with them about using some common components. Nothing really new—they just make the B-class better in terms of utility, roominess. The performance remains the same.”

Bancon on the Mercedes Concept-A:

Close to the B-class, you have the other one, which shares the same hardware components. And this is giving you some direction about where Mercedes is going in terms of design expression. This is going to be the No. 3 or 4 car they will build on the new architecture, called MFA, which is something we’re sharing with Mercedes, possibly in the future.”

There were no American makers at the Tokyo Motor Show, which prevented Bancon from saying good things about Americans.

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Walking The Tokyo Motor Show With Nissan’s Enfant Terrible Wed, 07 Dec 2011 17:46:52 +0000

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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