A Nissan car speeds along under the scorching sun. Just an ordinary day in the Middle East. But this car is not for sale yet.
The biggest challenge for both the Middle East PSQC team and the cars is the 20,000km test drive conducted within the tough local climate and environmental conditions.
The PSQC test drive travels over regular roads in the region, encountering sand storms, city congestion, and all under the scorching heat of the Middle East.
Every model of car that Nissan sells undergoes rigorous tests for suitability in regions all over the world. Only the victorious can pass through to the next round, being sold and distributed to actual drivers. And the custodians of this scrutiny are Nissan's PSQC (Pre-Start of Sales Quality Clinic), who handle the final tests for cars just before they go on sale.
One example is the at times harsh environment of the Middle East, with its roasting temperatures and merciless sand storms. Amidst this hostile nature, the local PSQC team run test drives checking for effects on the car in desert conditions. But this is not just for the sake of doing an extreme test. There genuinely are drivers who need their Nissan car to work perfectly in just such a place. It's PSQC's work to guarantee this.
When a new car is delivered to the PSQC team, they do an immediate quality review. The tests are handled by so-called FQI (Field Quality Improvement) engineers and specialists. The Middle East base has seven such experts, who have graduated from time spent working in research and development. They already know the ins and outs of how vehicles are created. Now they will see if this novice car can stand the test of the real market.
A 20,000km test drive
The ultimate gauntlet is the PSQC Test Drive, a long-distance car marathon over actual roads that customers use in the toughest of environments. If you think you know what a test drive is, think again. This one is 20,000km. And if that sounds a bit like overkill, the PSQC team know that this is what's needed to ensure the car can meet the expectations of drivers in the market. They conduct extensive research into the driving conditions for customers in the Middle East and then plan a test drive route over various regular roads in the region. The course takes in both traffic congestion in cities, as well as sand storms and high winds in the suburbs and desert. And of course, all at the scorching temperatures that are part and parcel of life in the Middle East.
The test driver is not a mere chauffeur, though. He's a Quality Controller, and many of them are also technical specialists at local dealers. He has experience dealing with customers every day and he understands their needs, channelling this know-how into the test drive. But being familiar with regular drivers' perspectives is not just a bonus skill. It's a necessity. The test drive doesn't depend just on one opinion, though. Several Quality Controllers operate the vehicle over the course of the test, meaning the car gets assessed in multiple ways.
And the locations of test drives are also multiple, not just the Middle East. Nissan is conducting these kinds of quality trials in all market environments to meet the requirements of global customers.
Different countries, different needs
Nissan Middle East is just one base, yet it serves nineteen different countries. Although the vehicle model being sold across the region may be the same, each country has its own unique needs that the same car must satisfy. For example, in Kuwait and Qatar, drivers require excellent air-conditioning. In Lebanon and Jordan, it's rather the brakes that are important, while for customers in Saudi Arabia and Oman, the car must perform well under very high temperatures.
The PSQC testing then is vital to checking these myriad needs, and there are "custodians" all around the world looking to improve vehicles for customers. And the energy source for the Middle East team's daily toil in such harsh conditions? None other than their passion for cars, as boundless and constant as the deserts in which they work.