In Depth

Design directors on creating the ultimate car of the future

If an expression of automotive luxury is a totally autonomous, self-driving car, where does that leave high-end car manufacturers?

Stefan Sielaff

Director of design, Bentley Motors

Modern luxury means creating something unique for the customer. The exterior design has to transport this sense of luxury through details that show that this isn’t a ‘normal’ product, but something expressive, outstanding, even radical.

Luxury design doesn’t mean filling the car with jewellery, but creating a piece of art. At Bentley we create tailor-made interiors. I see us extending this service to offer small-batch, highly individual cars for specific customers. Our clients will want limited-edition vehicles with serial numbers, so they become collectors’ items. The products need to be exclusive, so our clients feel they belong to a unique club.

Technology is an enabler for designers, allowing for endless possibilities to create autonomous, stress-free driving. Our customers expect a high-degree of technology, yet it must never overwhelm them – it is there to make driving safer and easier.

We joke that we invented the driverless car, as ours are mainly chauffeur-driven. For the future, I see some kind of avatar-chauffeur – an invisible butler who can organise the customer’s time while driving, arranging their meetings and booking restaurants.

Jaguar design director Ian Callum at work

Ian Callum

Design director, Jaguar Cars

To create real luxury is to give a sense of well-being, provide a sanctuary, an environment where our customers enjoy the experience, much as they would in a modern hotel. For us, it certainly isn’t about being ostentatious.

Jaguars are exotic cars. Therefore it’s about creating an exciting and involved environment in our sports cars, and a more comfortable and luxurious one in the executive vehicles. It means investing in luxury and new materials such as cashmere, perfumes and ambient lighting.

Packaging is our priority – the very make-up of comfort, seat value, versatility and sitting space. We then look at ambience by simplifying the visual architecture. Forms and shapes need to be easily understood, but at the same time not be cold. Beyond this are connectivity and technology, and the visual and verbal connections. The infotainment offering has to be as sophisticated as any modern luxury living space, with a great-quality sound system. The last touch is creating a sense of theatre. Jaguar cars need to offer a bit of fun, to make people smile.

I believe electric cars offer huge possibilities in terms of the architecture and providing more interior space. Space is luxury, and this is something that we at Jaguar are working on at the moment.

The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion concept car

Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion

press photo, do not use for advertising purposes

Gorden Wagener

Head of design, Mercedes-Benz

Sensual purity as the expression of modern luxury is our design philosophy. Our aim is to create clear forms and smooth surfaces that act as a stage for the high-tech, while arousing emotions. Our interiors are living spaces, characterised by sensuality and luxury.

The uniqueness of Mercedes-Benz design lies in the combination of sensuality and purity, of luxury and purism – opposites that are deeply rooted in our DNA. Our design philosophy encapsulates this bipolarity. Excitement, desire and pleasure are essential.

In the age of autonomous driving, the interior, above all, takes on a whole new meaning. The car becomes the ‘third place’, where you can work, relax or invite your friends via video conferencing. This provides wonderful inspiration for designers because the car of the future offers both possibilities: an automotive experience and, at the same time, a lounge-like atmosphere.

The exterior design will also evolve to emphasise autonomous driving. On our F 015 Luxury in Motion concept car, front and rear LED lights interact with the surroundings, so others see that the car is driving autonomously. And it has no edges, lending it the sensually pure form that is our hallmark.

BMW 7 Series

Karim Habib

Chief of design, BMW

We started to talk actively about modern luxury with the latest 7 Series. In the past we never fully embraced the term – it didn’t fit in with our brand values of being a driver’s car. Now, we understand how modern luxury can work with this – through innovation, for instance, providing technology that is new and improves your life.

With the future car, when in autonomous-driving mode, our responsibility is to use this non-driving time to offer a well-being experience, through the interface, seat comfort and lighting. There is a great deal of information being given to the driver, so we need to choreograph this.

If luxury is to remain relevant and stay with current values, do we then continue to work with materials like leather? Do we want to keep these as symbols of luxury? This is a hugely difficult area for everyone, as even I get excited when I touch the battered leather of a classic car. It’s something we need to address.

In the age of autonomous driving, we will focus our energy on not making you a lesser driver, but a better one. Our brand slogan, ‘freude am fahren’, celebrates the emotion of the driver, the joy of driving, and the idea of a BMW as the driver’s car should remain at the centre of our design.

The Rolls-Royce Dawn

Giles Taylor

Design director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The subject is very topical for us. Time is of growing importance for our clients, and we are assessing how we can work with the car journey to create a world that revolves a little slower; one that is more of a sanctuary.

Design for us means being timeless, classic and authentic. When clients sit inside one of our cars, they could be six or 65 – that’s how familiar the surrounding should be. It is about time autonomy. Yet we have to provide the most advanced technology. Rolls-Royce cars offer absolute connectivity, where everything is at your fingertips and effortless to navigate.

Space is increasingly luxurious and the autonomous car of the future will offer huge potential for the interior by removing the extra furniture, so you can appreciate the beautifully crafted wooden dashboard, say.

Our DNA is about modernity. The classic Phantoms had a sense of purity in their design, of almost-austerity, of clean shapes and incredible craftsmanship and execution. The future is extremely modern for us, with craft solutions at the core.


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