DETROIT -- Nissan introduced the 2013 version of its once-popular Pathfinder model on Monday, dramatically redesigned from the boxy, truck look of the car's previous versions. It was the first redesign for the Pathfinder since 2005.
Nissan executives and analysts both said the redesign was long overdue, as Pathfinder sales began to slip in 2008 amid the global economic recession and gas prices continuing to steadily rise.
But as shown here, the redesign attempts to revamp some of the Pathfinder's image. Nissan is getting rid of the boxy feel, but it's trying to keep the rugged in an attempt to appeal to more consumers. Nissan hopes it can be everything from a go-get-your-groceries car to one that can handle more rugged-road situations.
So, what went into the design? The International Business Times spoke with head designer Alfonso Albaisi, who led the design team for the all-new 2013 Pathfinder and is the Vice President of Nissan Design America.
IB Times: The Pathfinder was one of Nissan's most dated models. What inspiration did you use to redesign this model?
Alfonso Albaisa: Whenever we redesign a car, we first reflect on where we've been for the long journey. The Pathfinder started off as a very iconic vehicle where we took the hard body pickup and we made a passenger vehicle out of it. It was a very modern, smooth look -- not like cars or 4-Runners of the time. Pathfinder, the name, became iconic with this tough, passenger SUV.
But these kind of things change. So the role of the SUV changed. We felt that. We know that body-on-frame cars are losing some popularity. When we were designing the Pathfinder, we started to play with the curves and said, 'What if the Pathfinder was a little more sleek?' But maybe that you still retain the powerful wheel form -- what we call wheel-oriented nature of the body.
We're pretty happy with this mix. The highlights of the body shape push out and reach toward the wheels. So sleek, but masculine, was the goal.
IBT: What other vehicles have you designed, and did you draw any inspiration from those, as well?
AA: Historically, my career has been a long one at 23 years. But I've worked on GT-Rs, the current Altima, Maxima, Juke, Cube. That's one of the great things about working at Nissan. You can work on the most powerful, internal-combustion car with turbos like the GTR. But you can also sketch a quirky little box like the cube.
Neither one of those cars are a direct influence on this, but what you're going to see in the future are these fluid lines that jump over the wheels to show this wheel-oriented and the sculpted bodies on the Nissans. It's something that's coming on other vehicles, not just Pathfinder.
IBT: What are some of your favorite new features from the redesign?
AA: On the Pathfinder, I really like the front. Because the front is kind of bullet-shaped. But the power of the hood and the struts -- these chrome bars -- really make it feel tough. So this blend of a sleek body but a kind of tough is the part I like.
IBT: What are some features that might go unnoticed by the average consumer but are important to the Pathfinder's overall design?
AA: That's interesting. I think at a glance, people are aware that even though this is a sleek crossover-like Pathfinder, it's still quite capable as an SUV. It tows 5,000 pounds. That's a lot. But it does it with 25 percent less fuel. These kinds of things. People, when they're owning it, will say, 'Oh, it's not just a sexy, powerful thing.' It's actually quite smart and in line with what people need today.