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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Updated premium crossover

2022 Infiniti QX50 picks up new standard features

The new QX50 gets more tech and safety features.

Infiniti

Infiniti is one of a handful of automakers that have continued developing and building cars instead of focusing only on higher-profit and much more popular SUVs and trucks. That said, Infiniti's catalog is crossover- and SUV-heavy. Its smallest and least expensive crossover, the QX50 gets a handful of new features for 2022, and today Infiniti announced pricing.

Infiniti offers the 2022 QX50 in five trims: $40,025 Pure, $43,375 Luxe, $47,825 Essential, $52,525 Sensory, and $57,975 Autograph. All trims get Infiniti's variable compression (VC-Turbo) engine that makes 268 horsepower and returns up to 26 mpg combined. The advanced engine shifts its compression ratio to match the driver's behavior. When more power is needed, the compression changes, and when efficiency is the priority, it changes again. It's a marvel of engineering, but it's not as fuel-efficient as a hybrid. Power reaches the front or all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

2022 Infiniti QX50 Pricing starts at around $40,000.Infiniti

Beyond the new standard features for 2022, buyers of the new QX50 will have to step up to the Luxe trim to get the most desirable features such as auto-folding exterior side mirrors, power lumbar support, and perforated leather upholstery. Standard comfort gear includes eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Infiniti stuck with its dual-screen infotainment configuration with the 2022 QX50. The top eight-inch screen handles wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto duties, as well as navigation. The bottom seven-inch screen handles vehicle controls, radio stations, and other settings. Though the system looks great and adds a high-tech feel to the cabin, two screens can be distracting and confusing while driving. The good news is that the QX50 gets an excellent 16-speaker Bose stereo starting with the Luxe trim.

2022 Infiniti QX50 ProPilot Assist and Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are now standardInfiniti

The 2022 QX50 hasn't been crash tested by either major ratings organization yet, but the 2021 model performed well. It earned Good ratings in crash testes and a Superior score for its standard crash prevention systems. The 2022 QX50 comes standard with Infiniti's ProPilot Assist system, which brings advanced adaptive cruise control functions that can center the car in its lane, brake, and accelerate. Other standard tech includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, rear automatic braking, predictive forward collision warnings, and forward automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.


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Electric vehicle concepts

Nissan shows off new concepts and plans for future EVs

Nissan showed off a group of funky concept vehicles at the announcement.

Nissan

Nissan is approaching the release of Ariya, its brand-new EV, but there are plans for much more in the automaker’s near future. Today, the Japanese company announced Nissan Ambition 2030, its plan to develop electrified vehicles and become a more sustainable company. Beyond new vehicles, the roadmap includes investments in battery recycling and charging infrastructure, new battery tech, and more widespread safety technologies.

Nissan Ambition 2030 The automaker plans for 50 percent electrification by 2030.Nissan

Nissan’s plans include 23 new electrified models by 2030. The target covers 15 new EVs and a target of 50 percent electrification. The automaker says it plans to launch a proprietary solid-state battery by 2028, and notes that it will develop a pilot production facility in Yokohama, Japan by 2024. Solid state technologies are not yet commercially viable but will offer faster charging times and better energy densities than lithium ion battery packs.

Nissan Surf-Out Concept Surf-Out is a concept truck with super funky styling.Nissan

While the focus was on the news of its electrification plans, Nissan’s concept vehicles stole the show. The Surf-Out concept truck features a long, low cargo surface and unique all-terrain tires. Typical of concept cars, the Surf-Out’s styling and design are over-the-top. The cabin is surrounded on three sides by glass and open to the bed in the rear. Instead of a grille, there’s a glass panel with an illuminated Nissan logo. It's unlikely Surf-Out or the other concepts shown will make it to production unchanged, but they show that the automaker is looking to explore bold designs with its electrified vehicles.

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