It’s not possible to go back. It’s clear the future will be electric and autonomous. In 2016 electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles became credible. The mainstream car industry has been inconsistent in this area in the past but 2016 was a breakthrough year for both, as both became real. We started as a sub-brand in 2010 but now DS has its own identity. Since 2014 DS has been a real brand, and the Divine was the first pure DS concept. Now we are designing pure DS from scratch and 2017 will be an important year, with a new generation of DS products coming with a new face and identity.
It’s not a problem for DS in terms of electrification or autonomy. Interior design is fundamental to the DS brand and we focus a great deal on how we imagine the future. The next big revolution in the design of cars will be in the interior, because autonomous driving will change fundamentally the nature of activity inside the car because you don’t need to drive. This will transform interior design in terms of the vision. There is a great opportunity to simplify the interior because it is still too complicated.
The inside of a car will become more like a lounge at home.The big opportunity will mean materials and surfaces become paramount as switchgear and other complexities reduce. Nice, simple surfaces will feature noble materials. I saw a lot of concepts in 2016 – even those that were supposed to be a vision of the future – which had interiors which were glossy white, empty, dull, even. But I don’t want to drive a washing machine! Why do electrification and other future technologies have to be communicated in this way? The car as an iPhone makes no sense to me. It is too cold. I would like to see much more emotion in these interiors.Customers want something more alive, not soulless. You can see this in the trend for vintage furniture, motorcycles and so on, something with a story, something authentic. This trend is more important each year in an ever-technical world. And the car industry in the future will need to tap into this. The DS E-Tense concept is an electric vehicle but it is very expressive, emotional and organic. I would like to keep this feeling even in an autonomous car.
E-tense with Formula E racer and driver Sam Bird
The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 is a wonderful tribute to the great carrozzerie before the Second World War. It’s certainly flamboyant, maybe even a little bit too much, but I love it. It’s a full-electric vehicle but it doesn’t look like it. It is very beautiful. It has perfect proportions with a long bonnet and a small cabin at the back. I don’t understand why, when some designers design an electric vehicle, it has to have a different design language, because the customer will not care – it is just another type of powertrain. The Jaguar I-Pace is much more of a teaser than a concept car. It’s kept the recent Jaguar design language and tweaked the proportions to incorporate a short bonnet. That’s not in their DNA: for me, Jaguars have long bonnets. Yet it’s a good balance to change the ratio between the cabin and the bonnet to say, ‘I’m electric’.
The Lexus LC is a courageous design. It’s a little complicated but it’s innovative and clearly a Lexus. It’s very important for a premium brand to have a strong, consistent front identity. It’s exactly what we will do with DS and it’s the most difficult part of a car, because we keep it for a long time and we have to imagine how it will evolve, and in different proportions and sizes.
The overall form of cars, electric, autonomous or otherwise, is still very conservative even in the concept car arena. Most are teasers for future production cars; BMW pushed a little further with the Vision Next 100. Electric cars are a great opportunity for designers because we can imagine new architecture and proportions and how we can manage the interior with different packages. There could yet be too much choice, and we have to manage this with aerodynamic rules. I hate the word ‘homogenous’. For me good design should have contrast, like life.
Car Design Review 4 contains the best concept and production cars of the year, as chosen by the world's leading designers, trends, student work, and much more. And it's available now.