CDR4 Highlights: Jozef Kaban, Skoda

07 July 2017 | by CDN Team

“If ten people decide to go left, maybe you should go right?

“It makes no sense to follow. If those people are wrong, maybe you will discover another result. When I came from Slovakia I was perceived by some as ‘just another Russian guy’ [he smiles], the first in a German firm. My chances weren’t huge, but my dream was bigger than any kind of barrier. You should follow your dreams, not the car. The car should be there to help you follow your dreams. The car you create is much more than your personal dream.

“When I started as a young guy I always did sketches that made me happy. But I left that page. I don’t see other departments as ‘the problem’ but as ‘the chance’. Take motorsport, if you get a flat tyre because there was a stone, it’s not the stone’s fault. Problems will always come, the point is how you solve them. Sometimes you have to move to avoid the stone and if you hit the stone you have the challenge to stand up and do better after.

“You need an exact understanding between technology and design. It’s like a book and a reader, in the end the reader decides how good the book is. Each year is important for our next steps and I try to see the process as not just connected to this year, but across many years. But 2016 was definitely one of the very good years for Škoda as we announced our new Kodiaq SUV.

“The Kodiaq launches in a tough segment but we are moving the brand in terms of originality and rationality, producing high quality, trusted products, now with an even more emotional approach. It’s not just about doing the right things but about giving our products more sense and soul, and I’m glad to see that all this is happening for this great brand, Škoda. It’s one of the oldest brands in the car industry. We are not losing any rationality but, more and more, we are adding this emotional touch.

Skoda Kodiaq Ext Sketch Lo Res

“You could say that a car is just a collection of lots of pieces, steel, plastic and rubber. But from another point of view it could carry some feelings. But what if it is more than that? When I look at a certain painting you could merely describe it as textile with oil on it. But it is not, it is everything! In the end, the painting can carry lots of messages and I believe the car can do the same, carry something of the culture.

“The glass we choose in our concept cars is relevant, as our region is where lots of glass companies were born. We wanted to reflect the context of the place in which our cars are designed. It’s not about the details’ similarity to glass though, that would be too simple. It's more than metaphoric. Something so clear as glass is sharp and reduced to the point, that’s the connection we’re trying to make. We did some show cars with this philosophy but even more important is to bring all this on the road. I’m much more excited to try and see the car as art.

“Of course I like the engine too, but our dream is more than that. We have some symbolic links to the past in the verticality of our grille, which we are transforming into the face of our new cars. The front lights with eye lashes give our cars a slightly human look too, something like the Miura used to have, something sympathetic, which gives you the feeling to want to look at it again. The warmth of a human.

“We have more than 25 nationalities in our team now, which is incredibly diverse. There are 75 members of staff in Europe and 25 in Shanghai, about a third of which are designers, so we know everyone well. But the important point is that it is not about the size of the team, it’s about having open minds. It’s important to have successful humans, not just successful designers.

“I hope 2017 will be busier than 2016. There is the new Kodiaq and the Octavia facelift. The facelift was pretty big. You could question the move, but we changed our bestseller not because we thought the old version was wrong. We think our customers will move with us to be more self-confident and visible. The new Octavia will put the Superb under pressure. What could be better, when these brothers challenge each other?

“Does autonomous driving fill me with excitement? When I think of the development of the telephone, it was a huge moment when the phone became free from its cable, but it was a much bigger one when it became the smartphone, because it became much more than a phone. I believe the car will experience a similar story. The future will be great. The car could be something like your home, a place where you could experience freedom and space to gain your energy for another moment.”

[NB: Since publication of this interview, Jozef has moved to BMW. While his 2017 will certainly be busy, it may not be exactly as he predicted here...]

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.

Book 1