Study after study shows that young adults don't really care about driving a car the way previous generations did. That doesn't bode well for automakers. In an attempt to get the younger generation more excited about automotive possibilities, Nissan has designed the all-new Teatro for Dayz concept. The concept focuses on digital life and sharing, debuting as a high-tech mobile device that keeps occupants connected to a world far beyond the one visible through the windshield.
Nissan calls the young, technology-savvy demographic the "digital native generation" and "share natives." In designing a vehicle specifically for these natives, it started by scrapping the standard assumptions and definitions of auto design. What these natives are looking for is very different from what older generations want from a car. Driving is no longer about freedom, speed and horsepower but is looked upon more as a chore that requires unplugging and disconnecting from friends.
"The generation now getting their first driver's licenses has always been connected through digital devices, email, social media and so forth," explains Hidemi Sasaki, Nissan's product planning GM. "What moves these digital natives is capturing experiences in photos and videos and sharing them. Friends respond with 'likes' and share the experience further. What's important is not whether something is experienced personally or virtually. What matters is the process of sharing."
Nissan starts with an electric minicar platform, reasoning these so-called "share natives" want a car that mimics the small, versatile, electric nature of the smartphone in their pockets. The car doubles as a "giant mobile battery" for recharging smartphones and other mobile devices.
Beyond that, the Teatro is designed to be a blank canvas, exemplified by its simplistic, boxy exterior. That canvas is "painted" with integrated LED screens that allow occupants to customize the look of the car and share in-vehicle experiences through an onboard camera.
"They want a car to be a versatile tool for creativity like a smartphone," Sasaki says. "This is different from customizing a car. It is more like the ability to modify a car to meet their mood at that moment. Share natives will use cars in ways we would never imagine. So we thought from the perspective of designing a car that would serve as a canvas for their inspiration."
Inside, the oversized instrument panel is plain white. When the car is put into "drive," it transforms into a fully functioning cluster showing navigation, gauges and driver information, all of which can be rearranged by the drive. When the car is parked, the digital instrument panel is incorporated into a greater digital "theater" (Teatro's meaning in Italian) that spreads across the entire interior. Occupants can create personalized scenes that reflect their mood of the moment and share them with friends around the world.
The wide-swinging, B-pillarless door design opens the interior theater up to the outside world, and Nissan imagines the car being used for an "impromptu outdoor festival" or as a mobile interactive gaming system, bringing the digital space back to real, actual life.
The Teatro is far more a loose, futuristic vision than a production-ready concept car, and Nissan hopes it will start a new conversation about the changing role of the vehicle. It's not the only vehicle that will be in that conversation, as Toyota in particular has some experience with digital, scene-shifting concepts like the Fun-Vii, FV2 and Camette57.
Nissan will debut the Teatro for Dayz at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the media on October 28.