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MAZDA NAGARE CONCEPTNEW YORK – After presenting three ground-breaking concept vehicles during the 2005-2006 global auto show season – Sassou at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show, Senku at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show and Kabura at the 2006 Detroit Auto Show – Mazda’s global design team wasn’t about to rest on its laurels. To keep energy levels brimming, and to begin the process of evolving Mazda’s design and surface language for future Zoom-Zoom vehicles, Mazda’s design division invented a new surface language called Nagare:

NAGARE: (pronounced “na-ga-reh”) Japanese for ‘flow’ and the embodiment of motion.

Under the direction of Mazda’s global design director, Laurens van den Acker, a challenge was given to the design team to invent a novel means of registering motion in vehicles whether they’re moving or standing still. Nagare achieves that goal while also signaling a fresh design direction for future Mazda vehicles.

The Mazda Nagare, the first in a series of design concepts introduced at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, has been refreshed for the New York International Auto Show. Nagare, Mazda Ryuga, (2007 North American International Auto Show) and Mazda Hakaze, which makes its North American debut here in New York, are the first three concepts in the series to illustrate Mazda’s new design direction. The series will reach fruition in the fall of 2007, when a fourth concept vehicle is set to make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show. Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda North American Operations’ (MNAO) Director of Design, and the man responsible for leading the US-based design team which developed this vehicle, explains, “We’re looking well down the road with Nagare. We want to suggest where Mazda design will be in 2020. To do that, we redefined basic proportions and the idea of driving without losing the emotional involvement. Mazda’s driving spirit will be enhanced and intensified by Nagare.”

“Mazda doesn’t produce concept cars to spin its wheels, and while some are more forward-looking than others, we simply do not create pure flights of fantasy. We develop these ideas to demonstrate what we really intend to build and sell. It took soul-searching along with basic research to invent the new surface language we’re calling Nagare. The dynamic qualities of Mazda products already do an excellent job of capturing the spirit of motion, so our goal was to move our design language a major step beyond what we’ve already demonstrated with Sassou, Senku, and Kabura. ”

von Holzhausen continues, “We began by studying motion and the effect it has on natural surroundings: how wind shapes sand in the desert, how water moves across the ocean floor, and the look of lava flowing down a mountainside. Natural motion registers an impression in your brain and that’s what we hoped to capture with the new Nagare surface language.

“Once we started sketching our ideas, we weren’t surprised to find similar quests underway in other product design disciplines. We found examples of motion influencing the shape and surface of furniture, architecture, apparel and artwork. Nagare undoubtedly proves our confidence in identifying a new and exciting visual language for Mazda as we lead the way in defining the interaction of motion and flow in automobile surfacing.”

The design team began by developing a surface or textural language that describes flow. The motion of the Nagare is defined by, and evident in, the texture of its interior and exterior surfaces. Since there is no right or wrong way to capture the impression of motion, each of the Mazda concepts presented throughout this global show season represented a different interpretation of Mazda’s new surface language.

Nagare Changes Color For NYIAS
Posed with the question of how flow is inspired from a moving sand dune and how it differs from flow inspired from a crystalline, slate-filled river, Mazda’s North American design team decided to experiment with exterior color options. Going below the water’s surface for inspiration, the design team chose a simple palette comprised of a liquid metal blue metallic base, a super high-gloss white tri-coat trim and silver metal accents – to give Nagare a translucent feel like slate rock under river water.

“We wanted to show that Nagare flow design is flexible,” said von Holzhausen. “It’s not just an abstract sculptural impression. It can be interpreted many different ways and by changing the color, we’ve allowed people to view Nagare for the first time under totally new circumstances.”

Inspired from co-molded Rollerblade wheels, the integrated airless wheel design increases durability and performance. Newly updated tires include a polyurethane-based, flexible surface coating made from recycled rubber aggregate and a urethane binder, which binds to the structural alloy wheels. The high vibration damping and skid-resistant properties of the recycled rubber/ urethane coating allow for an airless tire, suitable for all climate conditions.

The polyurethane and rubber material, made of recycled tires, is the same product used in recreation playgrounds and sport fields. Using Urethane allows the tires to be colored.

Concept of Concept
von Holzhausen describes Nagare as “a concept of a concept.” It’s intentionally a celebration of proportions and surface language, and evolved in subsequent designs in the Ryuga and Hakaze. In other words, design first, engineering later at this point in the process, in contrast to the classic ‘form-follows-function’ approach.

Adds van den Acker, “It’s important to start with the vision first: Nagare is sculpture on wheels, our vision of what Mazda automobiles could look like in 2020. Nagare is practical enough to produce in the next decade, while Hakaze embodies design ideas we expect to implement in the very near future.”

Like all Mazda products, Nagare has the soul of a sports car. Its shape is sleek and aerodynamically efficient, as you’d expect of an urban cruiser for the future. Wheels are positioned at the far corners of the envelope for quick steering response and agile maneuverability. There isn’t an ounce of overhang wasted.

Access to the four-place interior is provided by two double-length doors that hinge forward and up like the wings of a butterfly. The driver is centrally located, like a single-seat sports racer, for optimum control and visibility. Since the driver is positioned under the highest portion of the roof, there’s ample headroom with a comfortably reclined backrest. Innovative seating arrangements are a Mazda specialty, as witnessed by the successful RX-8 four-passenger sports car and the clever packaging in the upcoming CX-9 three-row, seven-passenger crossover sport-utility vehicle.

Nagare’s rear compartment is a wrap-around lounge offering relaxed accommodations for three passengers. The central front seat and expansive door opening facilitate easy entry to the surprisingly roomy interior.

Recognizing that an advanced design concept needs an advanced powertrain, Nagare could conceivably be powered by a hydrogen-fueled rotary engine. Mazda’s work on this advanced driveline technology is among the most advanced in the world, with hydrogen/gasoline-fueled rotaries powering RX-8s currently in service in Japan.

Surface Texture Registering Flow Motion
Nagare’s side surfaces provide a means of visualizing the air flowing along and over the car as it speeds through the atmosphere. Light and shadow combine to convey this feeling of motion even when the car is still. Similar hints of fluid flow are evident in the hood, wheel arches, LED head- and tail-lamp treatments. The same surface language plays throughout Nagare’s interior; the instrument panel, center console, and door panels all appear to be influenced by flow.

Notes von Holzhausen of the vehicle, “Beauty is not a clean sheet of paper. Nagare’s motion-influenced surface texture compliments its dynamic attributes. Because of Mazda’s sporty essence, we never wrap our customers in boxes.”

“Our new surface language is car-centric. After studying the architectural approach, which tends to be strictly rigid, and the organic approach, which is highly fluid, we created Nagare to straddle those two disciplines. It is fluid, graceful, and dynamic. But the message it registers on the beholder is flow-motion.”

Global Design Effort
To give Mazda products sold in far-flung global markets a common design theme, the three global design studios, located in Irvine, California, Frankfurt, Germany and Yokohama, Japan are inspired, guided, and encouraged by Laurens van den Acker, the firm’s global design director, located at the company’s headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.

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