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 camo The 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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The QX60 is all-new for 2022.

Infiniti

Infiniti has released detailed specs and features for its all-new QX60 SUV. The upscale family hauler will land later this year with a reasonable starting price, updated tech, a nicely appointed cabin, and plenty more. The automaker offers its new SUV in four trims, each of which is available with all-wheel drive: Pure, Luxe, Sensory, and Autograph.

The QX60 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is available, and all models get a new nine-speed automatic transmission. Infiniti says that the gearbox has a low first gear that helps deliver better acceleration and power off the line, and taller upper gears for smoother cruising on the highway. The revised all-wheel drive system is more responsive and engages more quickly than the system in the previous model.


2022 Infiniti QX60 The QX60 gets leather and several luxury features as standard kit. Infiniti


An upgraded interior is in the cards for the new QX60, as all models now get leather, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel as standard equipment. Front passengers' backsides are treated to Infiniti's excellent zero-gravity seats and a stiffer second-row seat frame reduces vibration and noise in the cabin. Infiniti says that the cabin itself has more sound-deadening materials and thicker glass in the second row, which together yield a 7 percent improvement in noise on the highway.


2022 Infiniti QX60 A digital gauge cluster comes on all but the base model.Infiniti


A 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard that runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Six USB ports, nine speakers, HD Radio Bluetooth, voice commands, and SiriusXM radio are also standard. All but the base Pure trim level come with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and the top Autograph model gets a 10.8-inch full-color head-up display and a smart rearview mirror.

The new QX60 goes on sale this fall in the U.S. and Canada. Pricing starts at $47,875 for the base Pure model and tops out at $64,275 for the top Autograph AWD trim.

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Initial quality study

Nissan Maxima earns top spot in J.D. Power study

The Maxima earned the best model score in J.D. Power's 2021 quality study.

Nissan

J.D. Power has released the results of its 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS), and found that the Nissan Maxima achieved the highest score of any single model. The car earned a score of just 85 problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) and Nissan performed well overall in the study. The Maxima entered its sixth generation in 2016 and has remained on sale relatively unchanged since, though Nissan has updated the car with new tech and safety equipment over the years.

Nissan's scores landed it at fourth among mass market brands. The Altima, Maxima, and Murano took the top spots in their respective segments as well. The automaker also took home a top score for its Smyrna Assembly facility in Tennessee, which houses production for the Murano SUV. The six-million square-foot plant earned a gold award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects in the Americas.


2021 Nissan Maxima Infotainment was cited a a major problem area for new car owners.Nissan


Nissan's results are impressive, but Ram has an even bigger reason to celebrate. With a score of 128 PP100, the automaker was the highest-ranking brand in overall quality for the first time ever. Sister company Dodge earned the number-two spot with 139 PP100. Lexus tied with Mitsubishi at number three with a score of 144 PP100, which also made Lexus the highest-ranking premium brand.

J.D. Power surveyed over 110,000 purchasers and lessees of new vehicles for the 2021 study. Owners were asked 223 questions across nine categories on vehicle features, infotainment, seats, and others. On average, scores for the industry as a whole improve by about 3 percent each year, but progress slowed in 2021 to 2 percent. J.D. Power says that infotainment issues were the primary cause of slowing quality improvement levels.


2021 Nissan Maxima Three other Nissan models scored well in the study.Nissan

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