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Fantasy drives design

The new Nissan Murano has more power and better economy.

Except Teresa is not real.

She is a composite character who was created by the advanced planning and strategy group at Nissan Motor America to reflect the likely customer for the prestige SUV.

"We are the voice of the target customer. It is our role to have a vision for the future," says Amy Casey, who heads the research group and talked extensively about 'Teresa'.

She says similar composites are used for research on all vehicles, including the latest 370Z sports car and Gen-Y Cube which will be revealed at the Los Angeles Auto Show tomorrow.

In the case of the new Murano, which is a major change with more power and better economy from its V6 engine as well as loads of extra equipment and a more-luxurious interior, the focus was on women.

Casey talked almost entirely about women's needs on the Murano, even though Nissan Australia expects a 50:50 gender split for its sales.

She said 'Teresa' is a baby boomer who is entering a new phase in her life, making choices based on 'empty nester' priorities after her children had moved out of home.

So what is 'Teresa' really like?

"She is 54, she's an interior designer. She has two adult children,"

Casey says.

"This vehicle makes her feel very smart and savvy. In a new phase in her life she is re-establishing herself.

"She has thought about other people through her life, but now can focus on herself and a vehicle that makes her feel good."

Anything else?

"She is happy in her marriage, so probably it's the second one," Casey laughs.

For people who are not 'Teresa', the Murano will come to Australia with significant improvements in important areas including cabin quality and equipment. Satellite navigation and a rear-parking camera, both fitted as aftermarket equipment now, will become standard in 2009 and leather is likely on both models of the upcoming car.

Nissan Australia refuses to discuss exact prices and specification yet, but says the Murano will be pitched against the Toyota Kluger and Mazda's CX-7 and CX-9.

"It's impossible to now, two months down the road, where Kluger and Mazda CX will be on pricing. We will confirm pricing in early January," says the managing director of Nissan Australia, Dan Thompson.

A preview drive in San Diego yesterday showed more refinement and obvious improvements to quality, although the CVT transmission has lost the 'mock manual' mode fitted to the current car.

And the most important question of all. If 'Teresa' was a movie star, who would she be?

"Think Laura Linney. She is probably about right," says Casey.