Last week, at their headquarters in Gothenburg, Volvo held a very special preview of their new Concept Coupe car for a selected number of the design and automotive industry. The new Concept Coupe heralds the start of a new design led direction for the brand under the watchful eye of Vice President of Design, Thomas Ingenlath and is the first Volvo reveal from the German designer since his move from VW. We were delighted to find out that one of the attendees invited to this exclusive, pre Frankfurt Motor Show preview was Claire Potter – a Brighton based sustainable designer and Associate from our very own School of Engineering and Informatics. We asked Claire to tell us a bit more about the day and get the inside track on exactly what Volvo are planning…
‘The reveal of any new car, for any brand is certainly a milestone, but this particular preview for Volvo was especially important. Not only was the Concept Coupe itself being revealed for the first time, it is the first model to include the string of design led changes that Volvo will be introducing to its whole brand over the coming months and years. It literally sets the tone for Volvo.
And what a change. After a series of presentations from each of the key design and engineering representatives about the new ‘design signatures’, brand philosophy core and engine technology advancements, we were invited to see the new Concept Coupe, which was theatrically unveiled in the centre of the pristine white showroom. The sleekness of the car was actually quite shocking – gone are the awkward lines and boxiness that Volvo has become known for, with the new VCC feeling like a very high end reinterpretation of a vintage classic.
This vintage feel was completely intentional, with Volvo taking direct cues from their own, beautiful 1960’s P1800 model, which was also present in the showroom, when developing the new Concept Coupe. Volvo’s traditional strength in squareness has been replaced by strong lines through the sides of the car – smooth yet forceful shoulder creases and a presence that Thomas Ingenlath described as ‘having the strength and power of a lion at rest’.
After having a good look around the car we were all invited into break out groups with each of the key members of the design team to discuss elements of the car in detail, which was fascinating. We started with Head of Research and Development, Peter Mertens, who explained that Volvo will be retiring their current families of engines and replacing them with just two engines – one petrol, one diesel, which will be around 30% more efficient than their current, on the road models. There will also be around a 30% commonality between the two engines, which will allow a more efficient and streamlined production line to be developed. Plus, the two engines will only be produced as four cylinder models, with turbo and superchargers being added as the performance of the model ramps up.
The Volvo Concept Coupe has also been developed as a Plug-In hybrid model, and it appears that Volvo will be introducing this option on a wider range of their models. This in particular is a very interesting announcement and shows real direction for the brand with regards to environmental considerations on performance vehicles.
We then had an opportunity to talk directly to Thomas Ingenlath about the new Volvo ‘design signatures’. In essence, there will be a series of elements that will be tied together through a consistent design language over the whole brand – the front grille profile, the rear light cluster shapes, the Volvo badge (which will float…) – enabling Volvo to be clearly identified. This language will flow across each of the new models as they are launched – starting at the end of the year. We also discussed the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which is a new Volvo specific system of designing across the range of models with a series of transferable parts and components – again allowing an increased production efficiency in a similar way to the new engine design.
Lastly, we were able to discuss the interior design of the car with former Bentley designer and Director of Interior Design at Volvo, Robin Page. The focus of the whole interior is based around an iPad style, touch screen interface (yet to be fully developed), which allows the number of buttons to be reduced on the dash and allows those which do remain to be detailed beautifully. A diamond pattern is used to identify controls which twist, linking nicely between the function and appearance of the elements. The saddle leather interior is detailed with a great top stitch pattern and waxed edges with the whole interior being linked in both colour palette and materials used to typical Swedish landscapes and crafts.
But what was the most impressive aspect of the new reveal was not the individual elements themselves, or even the Concept Coupe necessarily – it was the obvious commitment from Volvo to put design at the heart of everything they do – from aesthetics to engineering and the respect that each department has for the other. It is certainly how brands should function and it will be very exciting to see the new reveals from Volvo as they start down this design founded path…’
And created by us will keep up to date with Claire as she hears more about the Volvo reveals too.
(images by claire potter – interior image courtesy of Volvo via claire potter)