2009 looks like it could be the year of the Chinese. The big 3 Americans won’t survive the year- Chrylser and GM are already bankrupt, but Ford should make it. When looking at most of the product made by the US companies, they perhaps deserve to die. The entire Jeep range is terrible, Hummers are against the global zeitgeist, and brands such as Pontiac, Mercury, Buick seem to have no idea what consumers want. The Chinese on the other hand- are using copycat tactics to give consumers the cars they want- at the prices they want them. They are also making market specific decisions, such as hiring design talent to create cutting edge vehicles for the western world. Other manufacturers are launching cars aimed at the eastern market, or collaborating with local companies to produce vehicles for that market, and the Shanghai motor show was the place to launch most of those ideas. The Porsche Panamera and radical concepts such as the Bertone Mantide were shown there, very significant that a new Porsche would be launched in China. Even the Lagonda concept shown at Geneva is actually aimed at the asian market- and perhaps the shock in Europe would not have been shown in China. There were so many new cars at the Shanghai show, some though, were of a high quality in terms of design- usually due to being developed in established western consultancies but also some internal Chinese studios are producing interesting work.
One of the most original concepts was the Chana E301 Concept from Chongqing Changan Automobile.
This part SUV, part coupe design has very modern features and is an aggressive design. The rear of the car is assymetric, which can be very difficult to pull off- but this pick-up has 2+1 seating that makes the assymetry more honest and functional. gallery
The E301 was styled as a joint project, in Turin, but under the direction of Chagan’s own team of 20 designers, led by Li Bo. The Italian design houses have been very busy of late- working with nearly all of the emerging car companies. It is not always public knowledge of course which cars they work, or collaborate on.
Essentially everyone is chasing the so called emerging markets, of Russia, China, India and the Arabian states (much more established actually). And two prime examples of this are the Porsche Panamera and Aston Lagonda. The Lagonda in fact was perhaps shown at entirely the worng car show, as European press reaction seemed to be somewhat negative about a vehicle that was never concieved for our tastes. If we try to picture this car racing across some sand dunes, or making its way over unpaved rough streets to a remote factory somewhere- the ride height and emphasis on cocooning rear passengers make more sense. My good friend Steve Platt designed the interior, and persuaded me that the exterior is much nicer in the flesh- and a lot smaller and lower than you’d imagine. The size makes the design quite intriguing, by using some traditional forms such as the “trunk” rear to suggest its luxury status- rather than sheer bulk. The best thing Steve told me however- was his use of genuine rabbit fur in the interior design, reported officially as luxury fur lined interior zones, perhaps for cold Russian wastelands- but designed, and reffered to by him as innuendo laden “furry pockets”, haha, he was surprised he managed to slip that by bosses unnoticed!