Infiniti Design Director Seiji Watanabe is moving across to Nissan/Renault/Mitsubishi Alliance partner Mitsubishi’s design department, under Tsunehiro Kunimoto.
The news was broken in typically unorthodox style by Nissan’s Senior Vice President, Global Design, Alfonso Albaisa, who posted this fulsome tribute on his Instagram account:
“SEIJI WATANABE! Author of both R34 GTR and the first Infiniti G35, director for many many many of my projects including Nissan Maxima back in our Studio in San Diego and as Infiniti Design Director for recent and future projects including the upcoming Infiniti Detroit Concept! Maybe because I know him so well but in his projects I see his brave and tireless spirit. He has been promoted to our Japanese brother and Alliance partner Mitsubishi. I need not wish luck just to say, wow! What a ride I enjoyed and what a wonderful ride awaits!”
Mitsubishi Corporate VP and General Manager of the Design Division Tsunehiro Kunimoto later clarified the exact details of Watanabe’s move: “The three companies of the Alliance, Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi, have established the Alliance Design Committee for driving forward synergies in design, which of course includes a wide range of development activities but also covers cross-company talent exchanges.
“The depth of talent in the three companies is a rich asset of the Alliance and together with Laurens van den Acker and Alfonso Albaisa, the three of us identify together opportunities and plan movements between companies that are mutually beneficial.
“As we accelerate the evolution of our Mitsubishi portfolio I felt Seiji's unique experience at both Nissan/Infiniti as well as his team building energy would be a great asset at Mitsubishi Design. Seiji will be joining Mitsubishi in January as an Executive Design Director reporting to me.”
The 52-year-old Watanabe graduated from Tsukuba University School of Art and Design in 1987 and joined Nissan the same year. He was appointed Product Chief Designer in 2010 and, as well as the projects Albaisa mentioned, was responsible for the bold Juke and the Note. He spent three years at Nissan Design America from 2010-13 and while he was there led the design of the NY Taxi and the Extrem and Resonance Crossover concepts. On his return to Japan he took the post of Design Director at Infiniti.