An auto company’s concept studio/design center/think tanks, which give a glimpse into transportation future thinking, are rarely opened for media. It’s where ideas are born, like two vehicles in one lane (Tandem project: http://www.motortrend.com/future/concept_cars/112_0408_volvo_tandem/viewall.html )
Prior to this year’s L.A. International Auto Show, we took the opportunity to take a small group of media to Volvo’s Concept and Monitoring Center (VMCC) to glimpse into our future. Alex Tripi, one of our social media guys, sat down with the head of VMCC. Enjoy the read.
We had a very unique opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC). Located in Southern California, this is one of four Volvo design centers around the world. While you may have never heard of the VMCC, you are certainly familiar with their work. Some of Volvo’s most influential models have come out of the California studio, including the XC90, XC60, C70, S60 and S80, not to mention countless concepts that have and will shape the future of the brand.
To take advantage of this behind the scenes access, we offered you an opportunity to give us your questions and comments to pass along to our designers. When we asked, you answered. So we sat down with Bjorn Wessman, General Manager at VMCC and Vice President Volvo Cars, and this is what he had to say…
Q: What can we expect from the next generation XC90? Will the next generation XC90 be more of an evolutionary or revolutionary design?
A: It’s hard to say right now. We are very close to locking in the next design, but given the fact that we’ll soon be appointing a new Head of Design, there is still time for things to change. One thing is for certain, the next XC90 will carry on the tradition of being an extremely capable and versatile vehicle designed around its driver.
Q: The Concept You, many of our fans have compared it to other sedans from our competitors. From a designer’s point of view, how does this make you feel?
A: In this case flattered. The sedans it is being compared to represent beautiful design. However, while it may have some similarities, the You is very unique.
Q: Can we expect to see more masculine cars in the future?
A: In general both men and women prefer more masculine looking cars. Some cars should have a masculine look. In particular, SUVs and sports sedan. However, smaller “city cars” could have a more feminine look to them. Which brings us to our next question…
Q: What does the future of small cars look like for Volvo in the US?
A: At the moment we are focusing on larger, more luxurious cars in the United States. We are a small company with aspirations to gain market share. That is not to say smaller luxury cars are not something we would like to have in the future, but it is not where our focus is at the time being.
Q: What do you see as the benchmark for the next generation S80?
A: The Audi A6. It is a great car, and I am confident we have what it takes to design a car that is more exciting and thoughtful.
Q: How will Volvo set itself apart in the competitive luxury market?
A: There is a new corporate vision at Volvo. Scandinavian luxury designed around you. This is a unique position and done correctly, it will set us apart. Creating uncluttered, easy to use cars that make life simpler is our definition of luxury. Combine with quality craftsmanship and the use of natural materials, you’ll see something from Volvo not offered by our competitors.
Q: What does Scandinavian luxury mean to you?
A: Simplicity. Use of natural materials. Not over cluttered, clean and beautifully executed, but NEVER boring. Being a native Swede, we asked Bjorn if he thought this gave him an edge. He said it doesn’t hurt, he was brought up living this way of life and truly understanding this philosophy. He understands there needs to be a balance, but it is a part of who he is.
Q: When will we start to see more exclusive features like full LED headlights and panoramic roofs?
A: The XC90, which will be our first car launched on our all new SPA platform will introduce a number of class leading luxury design elements.
Q: Is there a signature headlight and taillight design we can expect to see from Volvo?
A: Headlights and taillights are the jewels of the car and need to be treated as such. The tail lights on the XC60 are a great execution of eye catching design. But there is an even greater opportunity for beautiful design in this area. Lights on and off are equally as important so look for more impressive things to come.
Q: Many people fondly recall Volvos of the past. How do you feel Volvo design has changed over the years?
A: Volvo design has evolved but we have always remained true to who we are. While some elements are more subtle then others, there are pieces of our design that we have carried out throughout the years. For instance, our strong shoulders, and grill shape. Design must evolve, cars must look modern and fresh, and I believe we do an excellent job at representing our past while moving towards the future.
And for those of you begging for a remake of classic models, Bjorn has assured us that Volvo will never design a retro car. That is not to say that elements of past designs won’t be reinterpreted in a modern way, but retro is not a direction we will be heading in.
Q: What Volvo do you feel best represents the brand, either past of present?
A: Easily the P1800, a gorgeous car that has withstood the test of time.
Q: Do you see a position for a “Halo” car in the future Volvo lineup?
A: Absolutely. It is important for the brand and it is something we will see. We are hard at work on our core products at the moment, but the future of Volvo is very exciting.