“Many top brands today were certainly not on top 25 years ago when I started. Chery is growing and gaining recognition.
“As designers, our job is to predict the future, and students should consider not only the most established companies but ones that have high potential for future design recognition. Of course there are no guarantees, but Chery is now a global brand that sells in more than 65 countries worldwide, and 2016 has been a pivotal year for us.
“Following the successful implementation of our ‘Chery 2.0’ vehicle strategy, early 2016 saw the introduction of our Arrizo 5 sedan. The brand’s Tiggo 7 and Tiggo 3x [SUVs], launched at the Beijing auto show more recently, are also experiencing extremely encouraging initial sales results.
“All are helping to support record sales in the domestic Chinese car market for Chery in 2016, almost double the number from last year. These vehicles are the first full production offerings from Chery under my direction as head of design since 2012.
“In terms of recognition and image, Chery is improving, too. According to an independent international study, Chery’s brand image has moved up nine places, no doubt buoyed by the FV2030 concept unveiled at the 2016 Beijing motor show in April 2016 (above, and below with the team). This is the highest increase among domestic Chinese car brands, so it’s really very encouraging.
“The design and quality of Chinese domestic brand vehicles is on the up all round because consumers are demanding and expecting those two attributes in their vehicles so much more today.
“Studies consistently indicate that design is one of the top five purchase decisions. Even more interesting is that when the consumer has compared all the other attributes, design is the number one deciding factor. We are also seeing women having more and more influence on the purchase decision (more than 50 percent).
“Meanwhile, more competitive pricing from joint-venture companies – international car brands that produce in China in partnership with local firms – is necessitating local [independent] Chinese companies to break through and compete directly with the more established Western brands. Better products are the result.
“On an operational level, we’re getting quicker at what we do, too. Chery’s design team has been working hard to develop processes that provide the highest efficiencies. Those have enabled sketch-to-final-surface-release on full programmes in eight months, while the FV2030 show car was designed and fabricated in under four months.
“What I see across the broader industry is that the role of design is increasingly considered a vital part of the product development process and the great differentiator. With more chief creative officer-type positions being created and given board level positions, it’s a very encouraging time to be a designer.
“As technology changes at an increasingly rapid rate we’re seeing shifts in the job market globally. Design as a creative profession is being recognised more and more as an ‘innovation hub’. In fact, we’re seeing higher valuations for companies with intellectual property patents, as they provide monetary value assets. Companies are recognising design as a key enabler. Therefore, design can be considered a ‘value centre’ rather than a ‘cost centre’. Talent acquisition and recruiting, especially in design, is one of the most highly competitive areas of the industry.
“We’re also seeing a paradigm shift from ‘disrupters’, with new electric vehicle companies taking hold and offering new business models, and brand and technology links are leaning more towards Silicon Valley-style synergies.
“We’re located in the heart of downtown Shanghai, and I certainly gain inspiration from experiencing my surroundings – as much as I do from an exciting new project. Inspiration can be found in everything that we interact with, and China as an environment and as a culture is very inspirational. I would encourage students to relocate to a new city or country to experience this for themselves.”
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.