John Martin has been all over the Nissan empire in his 33 years with the company.

A native of Ireland, he joined the automaker in 1981 as a senior controller at its Sunderland, U.K., plant and has had many stops along the way, including a stint as a corporate vice president of supply chain management in Asia. After more postings in Europe, he landed in North America in 2012, becoming senior vice president-manufacturing, purchasing and supply-chain management in the region.

His job is busy and getting busier, with the production launch of the redesigned Murano last week at the automaker’s Canton, MS, plant and next year’s scheduled debuts of the new Maxima sedan and Titan fullsize pickup in Smyrna, TN, and Canton, respectively.

Martin’s also part of the team launching a third Nissan Mexico plant in Aguascalientes that will build both Infinitis and Mercedes models in 2017.

But for now the focus is on the Murano. In an interview with WardsAuto, Martin talks about Nissan increasing its real-world driving of pre-production models ahead of their retail launch, and dealing with the wishes of designers, which sometimes clash with easy manufacturability.

One of the things we did that was innovative here, that I took from Europe, is we did a huge amount of test-driving (of the new Murano). This car was previewed or revealed at the New York auto show, which was back in April, so we were able to run the car on the public roads for quite a lot. So we put on well north of a million miles on a fleet of cars, which is only about 11 strong.

And then we’ve got a much bigger fleet which is doing what we call PSQC (pre-start of sales quality clinic) drives, which is the pre-production launch confirmation. That’s about 40 vehicles we’re driving, again (to a) very high mileage before we get to launch. And we just built those cars last week. And that’s to confirm that everything’s shaking down with the car.

Right now we’ve got a car with zero design changes going into launch, which is perfect, because I’ve got a stable platform.

That kind of white iridescent (trim you see in the new Murano)? It costs a damn fortune. And the one that’s silver with the brushed aluminum? That look is really expensive. Because if you look at it it’s all textured, it’s not molded. It’s somebody who actually finishes off that varnish with a brush. Literally you don’t get any two alike.

Part of (why we did that) was the guy who designed the car – because the car was styled in California – (he) wanted to really get (across) this idea of craftsmanship. So they made us do a few things that as a car builder I go, ‘I wish you wouldn’t.’ But they’ve done it and it’s been quite well received.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com