Learn­ing from the best

Au­to­car Cour­land Next Gen­er­a­tion Award win­ner Stephen Cross­ley tells Max Adams what he took away from his lat­est place­ment with Nis­san

Autocar - - Road Test - PHOTOGR APHY LUC LACEY

How did Stephen Cross­ley, the Au­to­car Cour­land Next Gen­er­a­tion Award win­ner, get on dur­ing his lat­est month of work place­ment at Nis­san’s Euro­pean tech­ni­cal cen­tre?

It turns out that the Ox­ford Brookes Univer­sity student was so im­pres­sive that Andy Todd, Nis­san’s di­rec­tor of body, ex­te­rior and CAD en­gi­neer­ing and a member of our award’s judg­ing panel, says the car maker was sad to see Stephen move on to his next work place­ment.

“We get some good peo­ple through the door via the Next Gen­er­a­tion Award, so it was im­por­tant that while Stephen was here, we gave him a real flavour of what it’s like to be on the front line of en­gi­neer­ing,” says Todd.

“One gets the sense that my col­leagues have been giv­ing Stephen the full sales pitch, be­cause not only did he visit the fac­tory in Sun­der­land and go to Mill­brook, he also went to the In­finiti tech­ni­cal cen­tre [which is in part­ner­ship with] the Re­nault Sport For­mula 1 team.

“We wanted to show off every­thing we do at Nis­san be­cause Stephen’s a very good engineer and per­haps we could en­tice him back.”

Hav­ing been de­clared the win­ner of our 2017 con­test to un­earth the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try’s fu­ture stars, Stephen al­ready had suc­cess­ful place­ments at Mclaren and Honda un­der his belt be­fore he spent four weeks at Nis­san Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre Europe (NTCE), based at the Cran­field Tech­nol­ogy park in Bed­ford­shire. There he worked closely with en­gi­neer­ing teams, in­clud­ing Todd and also Rus­sell Wilkins, body de­sign pro­ject engineer, on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the best way to in­stall door locks, glean­ing some in­sights into how to im­prove the process.

At Cran­field, Nis­san car­ries out de­sign and de­vel­op­ment work for all the ve­hi­cles it pro­duces in its Euro­pean fac­to­ries. NTCE is also the birth­place of the wildly suc­cess­ful Qashqai. James Fran­k­land, Nis­san Europe’s sec­tion man­ager of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, ex­plains that the com­pany re­cently built its three­mil­lionth Qashqai in the UK since that model’s launch in 2007.

The Qashqai is a car that Stephen got to know quite well dur­ing his time at Nis­san. That’s be­cause dur­ing his time at the fac­tory in Sun­der­land, he wit­nessed it be­ing built along­side the Leaf EV, Juke and X-trail SUVS and In­finiti Q30 and QX30.

“Pre­vi­ously, I was with the chas­sis team at Mclaren and that’s very much a team that’s fo­cused solely on per­for­mance and then ride com­fort, whereas Nis­san is fo­cused largely on com­fort. It was quite an in­ter­est­ing con­trast,” says Stephen.

His time at the Mill­brook test fa­cil­ity was spent with Nis­san’s chas­sis en­gi­neers: “I spent a day with the noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness (NVH) team to find out how they test their cars for NVH and what they do to re­duce it. They were look­ing at wind noise from around the wind­screen and how to re­duce

An au­to­mo­tive engineer’s job is var­ied

it, but also how to re­duce the costs of bring­ing down noise lev­els.”

Life as an engineer at Nis­san is not all about driv­ing and de­vel­op­ing the cars, how­ever. There’s also some ad­min­is­tra­tion work, which did sur­prise Stephen.

“It’s been nice see­ing how var­ied the job of be­ing an au­to­mo­tive engineer ac­tu­ally is,” he says. “It some­times in­volves do­ing some­thing that’s not en­gi­neer­ing re­lated. For ex­am­ple, when en­gi­neers were de­vel­op­ing the heated wind­screen that’s now avail­able on the Qashqai, they had to pitch it in a pre­sen­ta­tion to an­other de­part­ment. They had to ex­plain what it was, what the ad­van­tages were and then go on to say how it fit in with Nis­san val­ues and which other man­u­fac­tur­ers were do­ing it in this seg­ment.”

Stephen’s time at Nis­san was also use­ful in help­ing him to fur­ther un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies of de­vel­op­ing the ride and han­dling of a car. The en­gi­neer­ing chal­lenges stem from the fact that the Qashqai not only comes with mul­ti­ple wheel sizes but two rear sus­pen­sion op­tions de­pend­ing on whether you have front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The en­gi­neer­ing team has the task of tun­ing the var­i­ous sus­pen­sion set­ups to make sure they all main­tain a sim­i­lar level of driver com­fort.

“It’s been quite in­ter­est­ing be­cause it’s a very dif­fi­cult thing to do with a car such as the Qashqai, which has to be an all-rounder,” Stephen says.

His next place­ment is with Toy­ota GB in Ep­som, Sur­rey. He’ll be with the firm’s prod­uct mar­ket­ing team, learn­ing what Toy­ota is do­ing in terms of ad­ver­tis­ing its cur­rent range and how it con­ducts mar­ket re­search into what cus­tomers want from fu­ture mod­els.

Wilkins (cen­tre) and Todd de­liver their ver­dicts on award win­ner Cross­ley


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