Earlier this month we attended the Paris Motor Show, one of the most important annual international exhibitions (it rotates yearly with Frankfurt). These shows are intense… they are loud, bright and pretty exhausting yet it is a great place to spot the latest trends in car design, and generally catch up on industry news.
This year most of the pavilions displayed pretty bland products – your mainstream hatchbacks, saloons and sports-utilities… and increasingly the crossover which is basically a hybrid of SUV/family car/hatchback, and whatever else the designers can incorporate. I am still waiting for a single design to inspire.
There were some concept and production cars to take note of though. On the Jaguar and Land Rover, the smaller SE Jaguar and Discovery Sport are pretty intelligent production cars coming from a car company that seems to be going from strength to strength.
Elsewhere, we loved the stylish Superleggera Vision Concept on the Mini stand (read our interview with Adrian Van Hooydonk, BMW Group’s design director here).
Electrification has been hailed as the next chapter in personal transport for some time. We’ve been promised interesting products, thoughtfully designed cars that are driven in full or partly by an electric motor. We’ve been teased with some intriguing visions for electric cars for a number of years. Yet until recently all these have been exactly that – visions.
Carmakers are not entirely to be blamed. A real infrastructure in most counties, even in the highly developed world, has simply not existed. Without charging zones and all the other furniture that completes electric driving, there seemed no real urgency to develop these visions. Until now. The new breed are nothing like the clumsy G-Wiz and other poorly designed older electric cars – products like the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and BMW’s i3 have already proved that you don’t need to sacrifice on looks or driving when you go electric.
The latest product to hit our roads is the Volkswagen e-Up. What sets this car and the other new ones apart from their predecessors is that they are actually a whole lot of fun to drive. It is pleasant cruising along in near silence. And with instant torque electric cars can be pretty swift. Range anxiety is an issue especially out on country roads where charging zones may not be in easy reach, but then battery life depends on how you drive these cars. In the case of the e-Up VW’s figures are around 75-103 miles in summer and 50-75 miles in winter. The driver has some degree of intervention through the energy recovery system and selecting from the three driving modes – normal, eco and eco plus.
Unlike the Leaf, Zoe and i3 that were born to be electric, VW is basing its electric strategy on existing models – hence the e-Up and soon e-Golf. And where the i3 is a brilliantly crafted machine that is perhaps not for everyone, the e-Up is a car precisely for the masses. Much like its conventionally-powered sibling, this tiny city car has been envisaged and created with a wider world in mind. And the electric e-Up holds the same promise of universal – and in this case – electric mobility.
The Geneva Motor Show is one of the main yearly international exhibitions that tend to focus primarily on design studies and future trends. This year, sadly, the displays were generally of ‘real’ cars – automobiles that are made for today’s world but tend to lack the visionary insight to make them relevant to the bigger picture of mobility.
This is a real shame as for the last few years we have been teased with a promise of a future urban setting free of the traditional automobile where clean hubs transport us autonomously in this wirelessly connected utopia. These are the sort of interesting concepts we witnessed at the Frankfurt and Tokyo shows last year.
Nevertheless there were some thought provoking ideas at Geneva as well as a few very attractive cars that may seem completely absurd given our economical and ecological situation, but remain simply pure objects of desire. We visited the show and spoke with a number of key car designers. Read the full review published in Wallpaper*.
Stefan Sielaff joined German carmaker Audi in 1990 becoming head of design in 2006, and apart from a brief spell at Mercedes-Benz interior studio near Lake Como in Italy, he has largely worked within the Volkswagen Group. Here he discusses the marque’s involvement with architecture and urbanism through the Audi Urban Future Awards, and his thoughts on electric car design.
Japanese car design is an interesting mix of a thoroughly modern minimalist aesthetic and stylised animation. It really is different and exciting to witness some of the work created by local designers at the motor show that took place in Tokyo earlier this month.
Car design here sits at the polar side of German car design that is usually perfect and polished. In Japan it seems to be more of a refection of their inventiveness and playfulness.
Small urban commuters and pure sports cars – mostly with a focus on sustainability – were the main themes of this year’s show.