This was one of the better concept cars we saw at the show today. Designed at Volvo’s studios in Goteburg, Sweden, the Concept Universe is a large sedan that has been created digitally, mainly in Alias but also with some ICEM. The visualization was done using Showcase, as were the reviews.
The concept, which measures nearly 4960mm in length but with a 3003mm-long wheelbase, is adorned with surfacing that employs more sculpture than lines. And it is a particularly successful result; especially considering the vehicle was done without the benefit of a clay and without any hand work, save for some minor sanding. The entire design process was done in a scant two months. The only real shortcoming in its design is a flat hood surface – which exterior designer Andreas Nilsson concedes would not have been as such if they had done it in clay – and an upper body that appears fragile, weighed down by the visual mass of the lower.
Overall we were impressed with the Concept Universe and pleased to see that, despite showing some strategy behind the new ownership of the brand, Geely has chosen not to micro-manage and meddle with an already successful design ethos. The soon to be opened Shanghai-based monitoring center, headed by new Vice President of Design for Volvo China, Lars Falk, will surely only serve to further the capabilities of the design team.
Mercedes revealed the Concept A-Class in Shanghai following an introductory presentation that featured Chinese movie star Fan Bing Bing arriving in a CLS and a tortured rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes-Benz” tune performed by US rap star David Banner and UK singers Estelle and Daley. But the automaker could not have predicted that the car claimed to feel “the pulse of a new generation” (according to Dr. Zeitche) would break down before driving onto the stage for its first global debut. In an embarrassing turn of events the concept had to be pushed onto the set by four suits.
Like the concept’s powertrain failure, the exterior design of the A-Class concept is a non-starter. While the original A-Class was an original monovolume concept, this new iteration – with its long hood and two-box silhouette – simply fails to innovate. And while the exterior appears to be near production ready, save for some minor detailing, the interior – inspired by aviation and designed by project manager Jan Kaul and Andreas Frank – is not, though it does showcase a new direction for Mercedes. “It might just make your smart phone look stupid,” said Zeitche.
Symbolic of a new family of compact cars wearing the three-pointed star set to emerge in the next three years, the A-Class will be the second new product intended to “make Mercedes young again” when it launches in 2012. The car has been designed to cater to a demographic that is increasingly buying premium compact cars – a segment that is expected to grow from 5.5 million units to 7.2 million units worldwide, with China leading the sales figures.
Apparently the company sees this demographic as being attracted to dynamic lines that carve across the bodywork – pity the company has chosen to go against the concept of the original A-Class with a design language that is largely derivative of another German automaker, if only a decade too late. The fact that Mercedes has chosen to abandon innovation with their most recent offering in the expanding premium compact car segment seems like a failed opportunity.
Volkswagen became the third major motor manufacturer to present an electric scooter concept, following in the narrow tire treads of Smart and Mini.
The VW e-Scooter was designed in China under Simon Loasby, VW’s Chinese Design Director, who whizzed his away around the show stand on the concept ‘bike. Why China? Because there’s already a huge market for electric scooters here. You can’t cross the street without having a near miss with one of the stealthy cycle. The electric scooter market in China is already at 20million units per year, something VW is sure it can take a healthy slice of even at double the price of the competition (hypothetically just €700).
Two things separate the VW from the existing products: firstly its explicitly industrial design aesthetic, which links the range seamlessly from it, through Up!, Polo and so on. The only VW branding appears on its cute chrome wheel centers, yet its brand identity is so clear that there’s no questions asked of its bloodline.
The second is its proposed integration into mass personal mobility infrastructures across the world’s major cities. Many have talked about it but with the unbridled pace of development in cities such as Shanghai and a ready-made, progressive market, it’s hard to imagine it not being a total success.
By Owen Ready