Norman Snowdon

Vehicle development manager at Nissan Technical Centre Europe

As much as engineers love to endlessly tinker with and refine a certain part, if the end product is not what customers want then it is all a waste of time, energy and resources. 

Every OEM wants to develop vehicles that both push the boundaries of what is possible and are appealing to the driving public. For Nissan, a significant portion of the responsibility for ensuring that that is achieved goes to the team led by Norman Snowdon at the Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE).

He says: “I continually strive to set whole-vehicle targets so that, eventually, we deliver products customers want to buy. At the beginning of a project – the concept phase – we want to understand what it is they want, so initially we look at technology trends and carry out surveys. We then set the early-stage targets and convert them into the engineering targets that will be applied to the vehicle.”

As vehicle development manager at the NTCE, Snowdon and his team are responsible for making sure those targets are being achieved in the car throughout the production process. 

In practice, this means testing the vehicle in all manner of situations to ensure it is up to the task and able to do all that is expected of it without failures or breakage. Most recently, it has been the new B-segment Nissan Note that has been put through its paces at the technical centre at Cranfield in the UK .

In one corner of the plant is where the body of the vehicle is tested for durability. Arm-like mechanical contraptions are attached to doors. When switched on, they repeatedly open and close the doors for the equivalent of a typical owner's 20 years of use. 

For the trunk, two decades of use equates to 30,000 times, while 200,000 opening and shutting movements replicate the same period for the side doors and can take three to four weeks to be completed. The speed can also be adjusted to simulate either a regular door closing at 1.5m a second or at 3.5m a second to represent a typical grumpy teenager.

Various other tests are performed on the vehicle across the site but the addition of a climate chamber is a stand-out feature of the facility. Inside the chamber, Nissan is able to create all sorts of extreme weather conditions to guarantee the Note's durability and performance. It takes a month to complete the tests. 

tags: April 2015 Nissan