The mood at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris could be summarised in the few words uttered by Peugeot’s design director Gilles Vidal. ‘We are going through big changes in the automotive world,’ the visionary French designer said as he guided me though 200 years of Peugeot’s research and development displayed on the stand.
‘Progress in this area won’t only be through engines and technological solutions, but about making our cars lighter, more efficient in terms of recycling,’ he said before concluding: ‘This is a global effort.’
We are in the second centenary of the motorcar and it is about time we reinvent the automobile to perform according to 21st century needs. This means taking a much more dramatic view of not just design, but as Vidal rightly noted, the entire package.
The good news is that at the final international show of the year, there appeared to be a genuine shift towards this way of thinking. This is still a new adventure, but judging by the array of innovative concept and production cars on display, perhaps we have reached a turning point in the life of the automobile. And the vast halls of Porte de Versailles showed that there are multiple solutions for clean, green driving – some clever, some bananas.
Renault and Nissan were one of the first to commit to electric driving. It was therefore good to see much progress in this area with the French marque showing three electric cars: the 2011 production Twizy city runabout, the Zoe and DeZir concepts. Sister company Nissan beat many of its competitors earlier in the year when it unveiled the four-seater production Leaf electric car. At Paris the Japanese firm unveiled a brand new electric concept, the flexible Townpod urban vehicle.
Audi and BMW presented more electric variants to join their respective eco sub-brands – Audi the e-tron Spyder and BMW announced plans to build a car based on its Vision Efficient Dynamic concept. This and the Megacity Vehicle (see our earlier report New Urban Mobility) will form part of the firm’s Project-I electric sub-brand.
Another clever proposition came via Porsche who announced its commitment to produce the exciting 918 Spyder hybrid supercar for 2013 first seen at the Geneva Motor Show in March. This is a beautiful piece of sculpture – the notes almost perfect. To marry this, speed and ecological is how the German carmaker sees its response to clean driving. ‘The 918 shows that you don’t have to compromise a sportscar by being ecological,’ noted design director Michael Mauer.
Away from the green theme, but worth noting is the Audi Quattro concept based on the fantastic original 1984 Sport Quattro with its iconic boxy and angular shape. Design director Wolfgang Egger explained to redesign such an car ‘you have to move away from the car and just keep the essence of its purity, the impression. This was a very angular car, but the modelling technology we have now allows for more dramatic surfacing,’ which he sees as the modern impression of the Quattro.
However, despite some excellent thoughts on clean mobility, it was down to the small sportscar maker Lotus to steel most headlines by unveiling six new cars – three sportcars, a coupé, a saloon and a city car concept. This is part of its young boss Dany Bahar’s multi-model ambitious plans to enter more segments.
Luckily design director Donato Coco promised that all the cars will remain in the tradition of Lotus design. ‘This is the most exciting British brand in the sense of originality and eccentricity,’ said the Italian ex-Ferrari designer. ‘To me this means the capacity to assembly unexpected elements, materials and shapes. This is what we have done in these cars – assemble a lot of innovation in a scheme that looks really classic.’
Read the full report and interviews with the designers at the show which appeared in Wallpaper*.
Nargess Shahmanesh Banks
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