Design

Why do automakers camouflage vehicles to hide them from us?

Ahead of its reveal, the 2022 Nissan Qashqai was spied testing wearing camouflage.

Photo courtesy of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

You've seen the wrapped vehicles in spy photos. If you live in California, Arizona, or Michigan, you've also likely seen them on the streets. Automakers use camouflage wrap on their prototypes, mules, and modified models.

In just under a year, Nissan's test engineering team has gone through over two miles of the adhesive camouflage as they work to conceal the company's vehicles that are in development. The automaker recently announced that a large number of models are in the process of making their way to U.S. shores by 2022. That includes the recently arrived Nissan Rogue, Kicks, and Armada, and the Frontier and Pathfinder, which are arriving this summer.

Why camouflage? It helps keep company secrets. Camo can hide body design elements that may foretell a specific type of engine, exhaust, or drivetrain, and hide sheet metal design that isn't in its final form yet. While a trained eye can figure out many of the hidden secrets, the camouflage helps the company make a marketing splash with the greater public when the market-ready model debuts.

Nissan Pathfinder camoThe Nissan Pathfinder was heavily disguised ahead of its debut.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan Pathfinder camouflage

"When we reveal a vehicle, it should be a very momentous occasion," explains Mike Rosinski, a vehicle development manager at Nissan North America. "However, before a vehicle is launched, we have months of work where we put the vehicle on actual roads for testing. In order to not take away from the excitement of the reveal, we have to keep the cars always in disguise and under wraps."

Prying eyes are always interested in vehicle testing. Automakers use the camo as well as garage lockup, transportation in encolested trailers, and testing in remote locations away from the general population in order to avoid their secrets getting out. Most companies own testing centers in multiple states, which allows them to control access to the products while they're being engineered. It can take the better part of a decade to develop a new product.

"Spy photographers will literally camp outside our testing centers," Rosinski says. "Sometimes, they even hide in the bushes. If spy photos get out, they can give our competitors a real advantage."

Michael Alcantar applying camo to the interior of the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of the most important elements of the camo is its pattern. Distinct black and white patterns are developed specifically to make it hard for a camera lens to focus. Nissan deploys a range of camo patterns and randomly assigns them.

"The patterns are key," says Sherri Bruder, manager, Engineering Fleet, Nissan North America. "If the material was just black or white or beige, you could see the body lines of the vehicle. The patterns make it tougher to see those body lines."

Covering the vehicle in camo isn't always good enough. Companies often take measures to conceal specific elements by painting them black, hiding interior instrument panels, removing automaker badges, and adding tape around the headlights, which helps to hide their new shape. A layer of padding or an extra structure taped on the back of the vehicle can further disguise it.

To conceal the Pathfinder's new grille, Nissan technicians added materials underneath the camo to greatly distort its appearance.

"Truly we have become masters in wrapping our 'presents' for the future," says Bruder of her department. "Our team has a sense of pride knowing what we're doing is very important. The process starts with us to make sure that we provide a wow-factor for all of the eyes that are watching for what's next at Nissan."

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Updated EV

2023 Nissan Leaf pricing announced

The Leaf got a mild facelift for 2023.

Nissan

Nissan is nearing the release of the Ariya, its first new EV in several years. Even so, the brand hasn't forgotten about its first mass-market EV, the Leaf. It was an early entrant in the space, and has been an efficient, affordable, commuter car for over a decade. The car got a mild facelift for 2023, with updated wheels and exterior styling accents. Today, Nissan announced pricing for the Leaf, which starts at just under $29,000.

2023 Nissan LeafThe Leaf feels lively, despite middling power numbers.Nissan

The base Leaf comes with a 40-kWh battery capable of delivering a 149-mile range. Its 110-kW electric motor produces 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The Leaf SV Plus features a 60-kWh battery for a range of 212 miles. It comes with a 160-kW motor that makes 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Nissan backs all Leaf models with an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

ProPilot Assist comes standard for the Leaf SV Plus, and brings a full suite of advanced driver aids that include adaptive cruise control, driver alertness features, and a surround-view monitor. All Leaf models get Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic high beams, and rear automatic braking.

2023 Nissan LeafThe Leaf SV Plus offers up to 212 miles of range.Nissan

The new Leaf starts at $28,895, which includes a $1,095 destination charge. The Leaf SV Plus starts at $36,895. The 2023 Nissan Leaf is on sale now, and may be eligible for federal tax credits of up to $7,500. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to receive a state tax credit or other incentives.

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Comfortable midsize sedan

2022 Nissan Altima: Three things to know

The Nissan Altima is a good value and a comfortable car.

Nissan

The Nissan Altima may not get the attention or the praise that the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord get, but it's a solid entry in an ultra-competitive segment. It's also one of few options in its class with available all-wheel drive. We spent a week with the 2022 Nissan Altima SR Midnight Edition with AWD and came away from the experience impressed. Here are three things to know about the car.

The 2022 Nissan Altima is a Good Value

With a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range and available all-wheel drive, it's hard to complain about value here. The Altima is still reasonably priced at the top end, where it maxes out at around $35,000 before options and fees. That's a great value for a spacious, comfortable car like the Altima, and with all-wheel drive it's a great all-weather commuter.

2022 Nissan AltimaNissan offers the Altima in several configurations.Nissan

2022 Altima Interior Space and Comfort are Generous

It's easy to ignore Nissan's Zero Gravity seats as another marketing buzzword, but they are legitimately comfortable and supportive in a way that not many others are. Available leather upholstery and contrast stitching give the interior an upscale feel, but even lower trims' cloth upholstery feels nice and works well from a visual standpoint. Up front, there's room for both passengers to stretch out, and the driver won't feel cramped on leg or headroom. Back-seat passengers get a similar treatment, as there's plenty of space for adults and kids. Parents will find an easy time loading and unloading car seats as well.

2023 Nissan AltimaThe Altima gets an update for 2023 with fresh styling and more tech.Nissan

The 2023 Nissan Altima Gets an Update

Nissan is refreshing the Altima for 2023 with a facelift, new tech, and better safety features. The new car will go on sale in the fall of 2022 and will come in several trims, including one with Nissan's truck VC-Turbo engine. The Altima's most noticeable update will be its front fascia, which is all-new for 2023. Nissan gives the car a fresh grille design that varies depending on the trim, and LED headlights will be standard. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is standard, and the Altima is available with all-wheel drive, ProPilot Assist, and more.

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