Luxury and comfort in automotive design

Motorways are becoming more and more crowded and crude oil prices are continuing to rise; nevertheless, the car remains man’s favourite toy. Increasing globalisation and the resulting demands on mobility constantly increase competition in the automotive industry. State-of-the-art technologies and new production possibilities spur on the market and set international standards. Since by now all vehicle classes have high technical standards, manufacturers must find another form of differentiation: design is the new catchphrase in the automobile industry and one of the most important factors for commercial success. With the targeted use of colours, forms and materials automobile designers are trying to appeal to the emotions and control the buying behaviour of target groups. It is clearly evident that the main emphasis is on the vehicles’ visual identity. The number of submissions to the category “Automobile, Transport and Caravans” of the red dot design award, which with its more than 8,000 entries from 60 nations is one of the largest international design competitions worldwide, shows that the design awareness of the automobile manufacturers is as high as never before.

Luxury in all vehicle classes

Luxury, comfort and safety are among the most important decision criteria when it comes to buying a car, and German premium brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche are becoming increasingly popular in the international market. Last year alone, some 1.2 million vehicles with a Mercedes star on the bonnet were sold; BMW recorded annually rising turnover, and Audi is regarded as a trendsetter in the field of exterior design. The US, the Asia-Pacific region, China and Russia are now among the biggest customers of German premium brands. The design of the vehicle is a crucial factor in the buying decision. Whether sporty, classic, or extravagant, the design transports an image, which positions the brand in the market and has a significant value for the driver. “The automobile manufacturers are increasingly taking into account customer demands,” says design and business expert Professor Dr. Peter Zec, initiator of the red dot design award and professor of business communication. “The emotional relationship of a driver with his vehicle is a decisive buying criterion and design has an enormous influence on the customer’s perception.”

Last year, the Design Team BMW Group received the highest accolade awarded in the renowned red dot design award competition by an international expert jury. As “red dot design team of the year 2007” BMW was honoured for its continually innovative design achievements. “With innovative design Chris Bangle and the Design Team BMW Group managed to lastingly strengthen the image of the BMW brand worldwide,” explains Peter Zec. “BMW is the best example that with a targeted investment in design great commercial success can be achieved.”

However, the increased comfort resulting from the use of design is not restricted to top-of-the range vehicles. Highest design quality has become a given in all vehicle classes. Aluminium suggest sportiness, leather and warm woods stand for luxury and elegance and can now also be found in the interior of mid range and small cars.

The currently popular retro design presents new editions of old classics such as the Mini, the Fiat 500, VW Beatle and Scirocco. However, the new versions rarely have more in common with their historic predecessors than their names and some distinctive design features. State-of-the-art technology, sophisticated high-quality standard features and a striking design offer the driver highest comfort, irrespective of vehicle class.


Cutting edge technology inspires automotive designers

The design offensive launched by manufacturers poses an enormous challenge to automotive designers. The task is to translate the complex technification in the automotive sector into impressive athletic and elegant designs. “Modern technologies enable new production methods which provide designers with hitherto undreamed-of possibilities and allow environmentally friendly concepts,” says Peter Zec. Innovative light technology, for instance, gives designers more design freedom; the full LED headlamps developed for the Audi R8 even received the red dot. Non-wearing and requiring a lower voltage, LED technology enables efficient but above all resource-conserving solutions. However, environmentally friendly cars do not have to do without a sporty, dynamic design. “Manufacturers have to develop overall sophisticated and at the same time resource-conserving as well as highly aesthetic concepts in order to position themselves in the international market,” says business expert Zec. “Even though off-road vehicles are still booming in Germany despite increasing petrol prices, for 92.2 per cent of Germans climate protection is the most important criterion when buying a car. However, the visual appearance of a car also has to be right, and it is the designers’ task to create this balance.”

“We are curious to see what the future will bring,” says Peter Zec. “The concepts presented at the Geneva Motor Show and the developments discernable in the submissions to the red dot design award show that as a mirror of society and the latest technological developments the car is one of the most important contemporary witnesses of our modern life.”

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