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Nissan's Mixim concept car aims at video generation

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - It looks a bit like a small Batmobile but George Jetson might also have enjoyed taking it for a spin through the galaxies.

The interior of the Nissan Mixim concept car is seen at the Frankfurt International Auto Show IAA in Frankfurt September 11, 2007. The Frankfurt motor show will be open to the public from September 13 to 23. Green technology and lower fuel consumption will be a big theme at the largest and most prestigious auto show in the world this year. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (GERMANY)

The Nissan concept car Mixim turned heads at the Frankfurt International Motor Show -- a futuristic three-seater that looks more like a video game centre than a car and was designed with the help of teenagers who hate cars from around the world.

“This is something that would distinguish them from their parents,” said Francois Bancon, general manager of Nissan Motor Co.’s Exploratory and Advance Planning Dept. “Our ultimate objective was this is something their parents would hate.”

He said the battery-powered Mixim, which if it gets the green lights at Nissan could be on the road in 2012 and cost 12,000 to 16,000 euros, was aimed at people who prefer to hang out in on-line worlds like Second Life rather than in cars.

“We interviewed a lot of people who are 15 to 17 years old in countries from around the world,” Bancon told Reuters, adding there were hundreds of youths taking part in in-depth surveys from across Europe, Japan, the United States and even China.

“We just tried to understand who these future consumers are,” he added, noting that Nissan’s survival in the future with such changing market conditions is not something anyone was taking for granted.

“We found out that these people are not interested in cars. So we were kind of surprised.”

Bancon said their study found that teenagers have fallen out of love with the car and view it as a noisy, messy throwback to the last century.

“We found out who these people are and what moves them, the ‘global generation’. It’s a digital generation. They interface with the world through computers. Shopping, listening to music, seeing movies, seeing friends -- everything is digital. So we had to find a way to reconnect to this generation.”

There is no joystick in the Mixim, but the steering wheel resembles a computer race game controller and looks more like the controls in an airplane cockpit.

The driver’s seat is placed in the centre of the cockpit inspired by computer games and there are two seats for passengers set back a few inches behind the driver’s seat and to the left and right.

“We wanted to reproduce the way they play video games, a play station or computer with the same posture and the same relationship to their friends, in this case passengers,” said Bancon, who runs the office in Tokyo.

“They are social, they are not loners or maniacs or selfish. They want a friend or two to be around them.”

There is also a horizontal split screen effect with virtual information displayed on narrow strip beneath the real-life view through the visor-like windscreen. He said getting the power from the socket, just like with computers, was essential.

“The first thing decided was that it has to be electric,” he said. “These people would never consider anything that is not electric. They are a plug-in generation.”

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