Media - Car Creators on Latest Concepts...
Car creators appraise latest concepts
Fri, Jan. 20, 2006
By Matt Nauman
DETROIT - Auto designers live in a world where anything and everything, from tennis shoes to music videos, can serve as inspiration.
With the F3R, a sort of avant-garde minivan, Toyota designer Kevin Hunter sought to create a hip party pad complete with a sofa, a chaise and mood lighting.
``It's a living room away from home,'' he said this month at the North American International Auto Show.
Trevor Creed, Chrysler's senior vice president of design, is one of the best at putting words to the clay and computer models that his studios produce.
``A concept vehicle is almost like an exaggeration, if you will,'' he said. ``It's a cartoon. You do that to grab attention and you risk some people saying, `I don't like it.' ''
Here are what some star designers said -- and showed -- at the Detroit show, which runs through Sunday.
• Franz von Holzhausen joined Mazda North America as director of design early in 2005. He previously worked at General Motors, where he led design of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters, and at Volkswagen.
On the concept for the Mazda Kabura: ``Kabura stands for the first arrow launched into battle. It really signifies our launch into the sport compact coupe segment. It's a compact little car with some innovative seating arrangements. Its three-plus-one seating situation allows for three full-size adults [with] an occasional use of a bonus seat.''
Neat feature: The rear door slides back into the fender rather than opening up. ``It creates even more space for ingress and egress. It's an innovative solution.''
On seeing his Solstice and Sky in the GM booth: ``Walking by those, I always get a little heartthrob.''
On the Camaro concept: ``I'm not a huge fan of the retro deal, but I think they pulled off a very contemporary looking car, and a good tribute to the Camaro nameplate.''
• Jack Telnack retired as Ford's global vice president of design in 1997. Cars under his watch included the Mustang in 1979 and the Taurus in 1986. He judged the EyesOn Design Awards in Detroit. He now lives in Florida.
On this year's Detroit auto show: ``The graphics in the show, the colors, the displays -- it's very, very contemporary. I mean this as a compliment, but it doesn't look like Detroit anymore.''
On the Kabura: ``I think it's a very new interpretation of the Mazda look with the fender flares and what they have on the RX today. This is the next generation. It's definitely a Mazda. It couldn't be anything else.''
On the Ford Super Chief pickup concept: ``How big can you get? It's overwhelming, outrageous. But it works. It really works.''
On the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger concepts: ``I think they're really good. I'll sound like a real Ford guy, but I think the Mustang still has that pony-car segment locked up. The look of the Mustang, the name of the Mustang is magic. The fastback is really great on that car. The Challenger and the Camaro have both gone back to the notchback. You can see the way they evolved from the old Camaro and the old Challenger.''
On the new Camry: ``A bit of a disappointment, I think. I still get the feeling they're reaching for something they don't know quite where to go. They're trying to make a design statement, but they're not sure the direction they should be moving in.''
• John Cupit is design manager of the exploratory group at Nissan Design America in San Diego. His studio produced the Urge concept, which blends a sporty car with video game technology.
What young buyers want: Interviews with 2,000 15- to 30-year-olds showed ``what's most important -- technology and performance, but specifically technology that they use every day,'' including cell phones, the Internet, MP3 players and video games.
On the influence of video games: ``Video games are their favorite pastime. That was the inspiration [for the Urge]. They're very technology savvy. They want their first new car to have this same excitement.''
On putting docking stations for cell phones and MP3 players near the car's instrument panel: ``We think that's a big improvement. You can see your favorite phone numbers, your favorite songs, on dedicated screens right above those devices and you can operate everything right from the steering wheel.''
On being able to use the car itself to play Xbox 360 games: ``With the car parked and the engine off, you can flip down the screen. Then you can fire up Xbox and play `Project Gotham Racing 3.' You get behind the wheel and use the steering wheel, shifter, brakes, clutch and gas to operate the game. It's kind of a nice experience.''
• Ed Welburn was named General Motors' vice president, global design in 2005. He joined the automaker in 1972. He runs a design staff of 1,400 with 11 offices in eight countries. In Detroit, he helped unveil the Chevy Camaro concept.
On the strength of the Camaro name: ``We see how first-generation Camaros are getting hotter and hotter, and stronger. You can't get a '69 Camaro for under 30 grand. And they're going up to over 200 grand or more. It's crazy.''
On mixing old and new: ``We wanted to capture the spirit of those great Camaros, but I made it very clear this had to be a very new car with a very new form vocabulary. The proportions needed to be strong.''
His favorite part of the Camaro concept: ``I love the whole car, but the rear quarter is what I really like. It's those muscles that really add to the vehicle.''
On his yellow 1969 Camaro SS: ``I've done a little work on tires, suspension, wheels. It's a car I just enjoy driving. I'll always keep it.''
• Peter Horbury, executive director of design for North America, is in charge of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles. From 1991 to 2002, the British-born Horbury led Volvo design.
On American design: ``We wanted to show there's a strength in American design we can bring to Ford Motor. There are some common threads that run through that we can pick out. For example, the sheer optimism that drove America right from the start is still there today.''
On putting that spirit into Ford vehicles: ``There's a strength, a confidence, an outgoing feeling.'' It's now on display on the front ends of the Ford Fusion sedan, Edge cross-over and the Super Chief truck concept. ``They're certainly not hiding themselves. [They say] `Hi, I'm Dave. I'm American.' It's a car that smiles with nice teeth.''
• Trevor Creed joined Chrysler in 1985. He's been senior vice president of design since 2000. Born in England, he worked for Ford in England, Germany and the United States before joining Chrysler.
On the old Challenger: ``It has a cult following.'' But, ``those cars were not stellar. Let's face it. Fit and finish was horrendous. The proportions, they didn't have some of the things we had today. And they were straight-line cars.''
And the new concept: ``You take that imagery of the old car, and find a wonderful platform for it. We're using all new technology for the lamps, the lighting. The interior is brought up to date. It characterizes the interior of the old car, but it brings it right up to 2006, if you will, and loses none of the positive aura of the car.''
On the Imperial concept: ``The challenge to the designers was . . . what could you do to use a good name from our past, the Imperial, and put something above the 300C? I want something that's noble, dramatic and immediately signals where its heritage is in the line of Chrysler products.''
• Tom Matano also judged the EyesOn Design Awards in Detroit. He's now director of industrial design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He spent 30 years with Mazda, GM, Volvo and BMW, and is most known for the first Miata and the RX-7.
On the 2006 Detroit show: ``It's a nice, sedate but very sophisticated show this year, instead of huge hypes over everything.''
On the Kabura: It ``looked pretty good, smaller, as opposed to things getting bigger.''
On the Challenger and Camaro: The Camaro is ``not just retro, but a good interpretation to the modern day.'' The Challenger is ``too much of an old thing.''
On the Urge and its video gaming roots: ``Conceptually, I'm never a fan of doing something else other than driving. In that sense it's a turnoff. The shape is quite interesting, the materials and colors. But I am a driver.''
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