future cat

The summer of next year will be the final chapter in Jaguar’s design turnaround it seems, thanks to the long awaited release of the F-Type sports car. 50 years have passed since the legendary E-Type, and the many false starts that I can remember of a successor in name, or abilities. Since the scoops of the 90’s, that turned out to be named XK8… to the year 2000 F-Type concept car, by Keith Helfet’s team (Helfet had form, by designing the wonderful XJ220)– which we were assured would be going into production, it seems that a Jaguar free from corporate conservatism under Ford and with strong design leadership of Ian Callum and Julian Thompson, it finally has the balls to do it! I’m also writing this blog- thanks to another stunning embrace of modernism by the normally old school Jaguar, a viral marketing company contacted this blog. I’m very glad to hear from them, and happy to share the images and info sent to me. Bravo Jag, now you’re really talking to the next generation of Jag buyers and we want to welcome the new Jaguar into our arms, as our very own, very cool British brand! So- what did they send me? Well, we have some great videos showing the prototypes testing, and just listen to that engine… glorious. A couple of pics of the prototype, where we can clearly see the design is based on the CX-16 concept car, but in convertible guise. There’s also a website, hashtag #FTYPE, and twitter account for us all to bookmark information whichever way we like in the year leading up to launch. There’s even a Facebook page…

try this poll to let me know what you think!

The full press release is below:

Further information about F-TYPE

Announced at the New York Motor show, and over fifty years since the launch of its predecessor, the iconic E-TYPE; the stunning two-seater F-TYPE sports car will be the newest addition to Jaguar’s model range.

Utilising Jaguar’s industry-leading knowledge of all-aluminium construction, the F-TYPE will launch as a convertible, and a strict two-seater with the focus uncompromisingly on delivering driver reward. A range of petrol engines will be available (V6 and V8) – and all will deliver stunning sports car performance.

Currently undergoing development prior to going on sale mid-2013, the F-TYPE is being thoroughly tested ahead of its launch; taking on the most challenging roads, extremes of temperature and the harshest environments.

The core appeal of Jaguar’s cars is their sporting heart, and that heart will beat stronger than ever before in the F-TYPE. Its development is a vivid representation of the confidence and ambition of the Jaguar brand, and the desire amongst the engineers and design team to produce a world-leader in a market segment that we have been absent from for too long.

Ian Callum, Jaguar’s Director of Design, said: “A true sports car needs to be pure in both its purpose and its form; to have the opportunity to produce such a car for Jaguar has been a privilege both for myself and for my team. The C-type, D-type and E-type Jaguars were all sports cars that held true to this principle in their era, and the F-TYPE will hold true to that same principle in its time, a time that is soon to arrive.”

The F-TYPE will join Jaguar’s existing range of cars – the XF saloon and Sportbrake, XJ saloon and XK coupe/convertible. Full F-TYPE technical and range details will be announced later in 2012. It will go on sale in mid 2013

Mr Horbury to you

Here’s a nice interview with a heavyweight of global car design. He created the current look of Volvo, and lead other even larger brands such as Ford US. Now back in charge at Volvo via Geely of China, lets hear him make some stuff up about car “faces”, which I’ve talked about myself elsewhere on this blog.

Geneva 2012 gets “bangled”

The legend speaks! Chris Bangle- former head of BMW design (the last guy to really change car design paradigms, introducing elaborate surface entertainment) let’s us know what he thinks about the recent Geneva Motor Show. I’m predictably with Chris here, some nice designs, nothing radical (except that insane and ugly Toyota FT-Bh concept he mentions) and some very safe me-too production designs from major brands.

Bangle on Geneva 2012 from Scuderia Zagreb on Vimeo.

GM seeded apples….

Here’s a really interesting article written about GM’s history and it’s invention of car styling and marketing as we know it, linking it to the current design-led dominance of Apple. The similarities are clear, especially the annual new product releases as “events”. Steve Jobs also mentions this influence in his biography, when asked about which other companies are as closely integrated in terms of engineering and design (styling) and create and control all aspects of their products very carefully, he replies “auto manufacturers”. Link below.

How the iPhone got tail fins: Lessons Apple learned from GM

thanks to venturebeat.com

right, wrong and french- the future of the electric car

A glimpse of the future right now in 2011, are the new wave of electric or hybrid cars. Like the late great Steve Jobs achieved with the iPad, the car manufacturers of this world are attempting to move our vehicles from one age to the next. Where Jobs has moved us from the PC age, to the true home computing age, cars are about to move from using fossil fuels to much more environmentally friendly means of propulsion. The interesting thing here is that the car manufacturers seem to have got this all wrong, a lot like Microsoft did with tablet computing, they are applying their old business models and old engineering brains to this new problem. So I’d like to explain my point by putting each new hybrid/electric or whatever vehicle into right or wrong categories. So let’s start with wrong:

These cars just haven’t been designed with the correct attitude or market positioning in my opinion- the result is a product inferior in almost every way to a standard fossil fuel car. We can look to other product categories, such as computing with the ipad, or a more mature analogy of the flatscreen TV market. Here the manufacturers and innovators of plasma and LCD flat panel TVs absolutely did not aim to replace the average cheap tube TV. Remember we all had 21″ cheap brands, from Argos? Did Pioneer launch a decontented, basic functionality, 21″ plasma TV? No. Flatscreens entered the market at 42″ size, and they were not at all affordable. In fact the first one on sale was a Phillips 42″ which cost $15,000 in 1997 (Pioneer launched theirs later that year). People had literally never seen or heard of TVs as expensive and as large as these new generation. Early adopters with plenty of cash loved them, and “the big plasma” TV remains a status symbol, as the recent riots news stories were keen to remind us (despite them being cheap Argos items themselves now). So, early adopters are charged huge prices for extremely advanced technology- and the profits from these sales are used to push innovation and manufacturing into larger volumes and cheaper methods so that gradually prices dropped. We are now at a stage where all TVs are slim, LCD (an even more outrageously expensive technology at first) and larger than we ever had before. So why on earth do car manufacturers think they can immediately offer a car- with completely new technology, at the same price and to the same customers as current fossil fuel cars which they have spent the last 70+ years refining into a cost effect product? Complete madness, and the result is severely compromised vehicles using cheap underdeveloped technology solutions, which are still not cheap enough, so the manufacturers are forced to subsidise the true cost and make no profit at all! Here’s my list of the worst offenders.

Honda Insight: A rough, cheap feeling and sounding hybrid (according to journalists) which was designed with only one purpose- to undercut the price of the Toyota Prius. No thanks Honda- and you should know better (in fact your engineers do… see the FCX Clarity).

Nissan Leaf: A loss making marketing exercise aimed at making Nissan famous for introducing the first proper electric car. I owned a Nissan which beeped and warned me frantically when it’s petrol-filled fuel source reached only 100km range left. The Nissan Leaf’s total range when fully charged? 100km….  let’s hope they didn’t use the same dashboard warning software.

Reva G-Wiz: Not much to say about this- except it exploited a loophole in one particular city’s laws. Barely even a car, simply a plastic box with a close resemblance to those trolleys you can sit your kids in at the supermarket.

Mitsubishi i-Miev: Too narrow and unsafe looking- but a decent design effort for a city car, still aiming at being cheap rather than cool though. Marketing nightmare, I mean look at it? Who is it for?

Ok- so those guys got it wrong- but guess what, some manufacturers are getting it right and it is no accident that they are either totally new companies not tied down by traditional or restricted thinking (some have been started by total novices!), or they are companies that are so old they actually needed to think radically to stay alive and relevant. These companies are charging- quite rightly- a premium for this future technology. They are designing state-of-the-art transportation, that uses extreme engineering and new technologies and they are aiming those expensive and exciting products at rich and excitable new age consumers. The early adopters are of course very happy to lead the way, to show the world they are changing it with their wallet. These are the future success stories in the automotive arena- perhaps Telsa or even Fisker might in future become the Apple of cars? Who wants to bet that Tesla will be number 1 auto manufacturer in the world (currently Toyota) 25 years from now?

Tesla Model S: Not completely ground-breaking in exterior design, but it does have that modern electric car aesthetic of smooth surfaces and less body openings than usual. It also has an astonishing touch screen interior (as does the Fisker) and the entire company is doing things very differently, run by an ex-internet billionaire (paypal founder). This is Tesla’s second model, the first being a product that had almost no practical application other than to show-off the technology and to tempt those rich early adopters into joining in the development party. Genius.

Fisker Karma: (see my previous post): Made in Finland, designed by a Dane in California- who set-up his company there because he realised silicon valley was about to become the new Motor City…. I would bet that he will be correct. He (Henrik Fisker) also designed the Tesla Model S, to which they had a little falling-out over because they claimed he made it purposely less sexy than his own car! The Karma breaks all the traditional design rules because it starts from an entirely new packaging proposition- much like the plasma TV gave us “hang-on-the-wall” thinness. There is even a version that revives that ultimate luxury car product- the shooting brake!

Rolls Royce 102-EX: A real no-brainer here, Rolls Royces are for people to be driven in, who keep them in garages with an attendant driver to charge it up for them and electric motors ensure properly silent running. Owners are also willing to spend any amount to have the world not hate them for their opulence…

BMW i8: The i3 and the i8 from BMW are such radical thinking from BMW, they decided to create an entire new sub-brand, with a new design language also. They are made from materials that BMW have never used in full production before, and in the case of the i8 they emphasize pure performance. It has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, and 0-60 of 5 seconds, both cars use unique packaging only possible because of their EV or hybrid design. A lot like the Karma this new space utilisation creates a completely radical shape- not just design details, but the entire form and layout of the car moves us into the future. Wonderful!

Jaguar CX75: I absolutely love this car, look at how utterly gorgeous it is. Concept car perfection- and now destined for production in 2013. This is Jaguars first hybrid car and they have chosen (unlike Toyota, Nissan) to put it right at the very top of their range, as a halo product. This is of course genius, and makes our rich friends pay for the technology that we might all be driving with in the future. The CX75 concentrates on performance by using absolutely amazing turbine engines to charge the battery packs!

The French!

Renault Twizy: Now this is simply too odd to call- typically the crazy French are doing neither a premium halo product, nor attempting to simply give us an ordinary car with EV tech (ok, so Renault are actually rolling out a whole range which includes the most boring cheap looking saloon I’ve ever seen). No, Renault have decided to make a vehicle that is hard to label- a four wheeled covered motorbike for city streets. It is hard to guess exactly who might buy this device, or if we might see bunches of them droning up the slow lane of the M6 in the UK, or tottering through the vast long forest roads here in Finland (no is the answer to both) trying to swerve around a Moose. This is not a car- but it looks like fun!

As usual, here’s a gallery (and slideshow) of my research for this post.

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audi Q cars

Right, so this week we have seen published images of the new Audi Q3 crossover, based on the cheaper VW Tiguan of course. The best part as you can already guess perhaps…. is that Audi teased the press with preview sketches as is the usual process these days, and now the final car is revealed, with almost total predictability. It looks so much like the larger Audi Q5 most of us car geeks, let alone the average person on the street, can BARELY tell the difference.

Wow- those Audi designers really earn their money…. So they did nothing

at all in the process of creating this car? Picked some new LED’s for the headlights? I guess we can expect this sort of evolutionary and cautious design language from the Apple of the car world, and they have of course proved this tactic to be incredibly successful. I guess I just wonder about the enthusiastic, idea-filled, young designers trapped in that Audi design studio…. how do they feel when the bosses just ask for this kind of work?!

Here are some comparison shots in a slideshow, see if you can tell the difference…. (hint: the blue one is a Q5!)

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always be sketching

These wonderful archive drawings, from the design process of the 1973 Pontiac Grand-Am, show just how little the car design process has changed and also reveals the art that was traditionally kept secret. The information age that we now live in means it’s much more common to see design drawings in press released information. The art of automotive design drawing really has a unique aesthetic of it’s own, with perhaps a slight US vs Europe variation. US designs still follow the gloss airbrush style, while Europe was the land of product designers and their Cool Grey blocking markers. There was and always will be crossover though- as one of these Pontiac marker sketches shows.

Hit the link under the image, for the full gallery thanks to Dean’s Garage.

thanks to deansgarage.com
Early ’70s rendering of the ’73 GTO/Grand Am by Geza Loczi

deansgarage.com  73-gto/grand-am-renderings

nice rack

Couple of interesting links for you here- which both go some way to explain the processes and huge amount of work that goes on in the design studios of car manufacturers, yet is rarely seen by the public. The first link shows a fantastic set of snoop photos of GM design studio 1/4 scale models and 1/1 size models in storage and at design reviews. There are a lot of models on the racks! Just one new model can have many design iterations like these (the picture appears to show designs for a saloon and convertible model), and this is the big secret being revealed here: nobody ever gets a design right first time! Great designers are those that iterate a bad design into a good one…


Here’s a similar link to some Mercedes design scale models, but this time they are even more abstract and don’t actually depict realistic designs. These are early prototypes displaying a thought process and attempts to produce new aesthetic directions for vehicle design. As my mentor at Peugeot smartly told me once, “don’t just start by drawing cars! Draw anything!”.


credit crunch

Thanks to a new baby, and also redecorating a new house- I’ve had very little time to write this blog and even less time to read my long term favourite magazine Car. Tonight I tried to go catch up on reading, and I’m as far behind as the August issue. This brings me to write a post about something in that issue, regarding the leading car designers at this time in 2010. Car Magazine has always been a cut above others, with their inside industry knowledge and contacts but sometimes the design related reporting lets them down. This is not entirely their fault, as the industry still insists on massive variation in publicity in terms of vehicle designers and the internal vehicle design studios. The image of a car company is more important than almost anything else they do and they go to enormous lengths to protect it. Another fact is that a studio’s designers are working on vital products that may not be seen on the road until 6 or 7 years time. This means that headhunting and stealing the staff with that knowledge is very valuable to other studios and very damaging to the studios that lose staff. So, the result is that some studios flatly refuse to acknowledge that anyone besides the chief designer even exists- and therefore every design is attributed to a design chief that may not have put pen to paper for many years. Other studios seem more confident of retaining talent, by simple measures such as paying them enough or keeping them happy! So we rarely see interior, exterior, even colour and trim individuals being named and paraded in PR at car launches. The publicity can also be very selective, with the more design orientated publications being given more information- magazines such as Auto&Design for example. Knowing many designers in the industry, and feeling pride even in seeing their work out there on my local street, I feel quite strongly when I see yet another magazine article reporting that X chief designer actually designed that car. For example, the wonderful new Mercedes SLS exterior was designed by Mark Featherstone. A British born designer, and fellow graduate of Coventry University, Mark went straight from school to work for Mercedes where he has designed the B-Class exterior which earned his stripes as it were- to be let lose on the ultimate Mercedes, the SLS. Mark appeared at the public unveiling of both cars, in 2004 and 2009 respectively, named publicly as the designer, and continues to work for Mercedes to this day. He even featured in a great little PR video driving and giving his wide-eyed Clarkson style verdict on the final production SLS! This makes me feel good, and it makes me like the Merc design department. There are other design studios that are not so transparent in naming any designers other than the top person- or simply make a bit of a mess explaining exactly how a car is even designed. The result is that CAR magazine’s list of the top 30 designers, with notes on the actual cars designed by them- not just the studios they run, is plain wrong in places. For example the Mercedes chief, Gorden Wagener is credited with the SLS, but the text is more generous to our Mark by saying Gorden “championed” the SLS, rather than created it. The issue gets much more complicated when the journalists really don’t understand the difference between leading a design strategy across various studios, leading a certain brand, leading a single project or actually getting the markers and clay out and styling a vehicle. A great example from the list is a fantastic award winning concept car from 2006- the Citroen C-Metisse. I also personally know both designers involved, the painfully talented Vincent Grit on exterior duties, and the very good friend and superb artist Steven Platt creating the interior design. Both of these designers were publicly named as the creators of this vehicle on it’s release, there was a photo of them both stood next to that car (which was captioned with their names in the relevant article in 2006). I have included a signed sketch by Steven here.


Now in the 2010 CAR article, recently promoted chief designer at Peugeot, Giles Vidal is credited with designing the C-Metisse. The article actually points out Vidal was head of concepts at PSA, so maybe we should be lenient, but it once again might seem to the average reader that the C-Metisse was such great work by him that it earned promotion. This is true in a sense- that he made the decision to produce this concept and that decision proved to be popular once revealed to the public. Perhaps something of a design industry joke, is just how many people claim to have designed the original Audi TT, this latest magazine article credits Peter Schreyer, Freeman Thomas, but not as has previously been reported, J Mays. The list of Audi TT designers could be longer, and will we ever know who actually sketched out that shape?

The reality would be great to know from all these studios, just how much input do people such as Giles have into that design? I hear to varying degrees the amount that a designer is “in charge” of their own design once it has the green light for either a concept or production. This is also the standard practise within studios, to let all designers compete, then once a single design has “won” the designer responsible effectively becomes chief on that one vehicle, seeing it through right to the final stage in every detail. So a studio chief simply picks a winner- like early auditions for X-factor? When I was an intern at Peugeot, the Peugeot family vetted new designs, and if Mr Peugeot’s wife didn’t like your design, then it probably wasn’t going into production I’m afraid. Also, if a designer simply stuck the cat-eye headlamp graphic on almost any shape- that also was favoured by the chief designer over any other more aesthetically pleasing designs. Does this kind of selection require design ability, aesthetic judgement, or just a grasp of office politics? We could say generously that it requires all 3 skills, and is a damned difficult role to play in the process. We could also say the opposite….

sad saab

This is so pathetic. I saw this imported Saab 9-7 in Oulu hospital car park. It is so clearly the embodiment of exactly how GM ruined the wonderful brand of Saab. Not only does it look cheap (it is cheap) and ugly, it is possibly the least aerodynamic Saab ever made. To complete the trashing of everything Saab stands for- it has a giant 5.7litre V8 engine that as far as I know, isn’t even turbocharged. GM really seemed to try very hard to kill Saab, but they failed. Let’s hope future Saabs can escape this kind of dead-end Detriot dinosaur thinking now the company is free, and return to true Saab values!

Saab 97 5.7l V8!!