- ABOUT US _ Drive is an Automotive Design Consultancy building long term relationships with design-driven companies worldwide, designing products that enhance their brand's DNA and position in the market place.
Geneva this year was, for me, a mixed bag of sophisticated concepts, inspiring steps forward in production cars and a display of how saturated the industry is becoming with clichés and forgettable designs.
We started our day drifting from stand to stand and were quickly met with the Hyundai Intrado concept which turned out to be one of the better resolved concepts at the show but for me, like many of the concepts here, lacked any deeper thinking outside of brand development.
With brief stops at Audi, VW and Skoda and their perpetual evolutions of the same design we were feeling a little uninspired. Renault brought a little sunshine to precedings with their Teletubby hills, warm glowing orbs and the prospect of an exciting new rear engined, rear wheel drive Twingo. The layout did provide some visual divergence but with its unnecessary central tunnel and lack of luggage space it felt almost like a hindrance rather than an opportunity. Renault really could have capitalised here over the competition which comes in the form of the Citroen, Toyota, Peugeot trio, all of which have their own idiosyncrasies. The C1 and 108 seem to be fairly successfully unique but the Aygo, in what looks like an attempt to catch up, adorns an imposing black ‘X’ on the front which to me is about as exciting and creative as putting some colourful laces on a pair of Clarks brogues.
The most successful designs, in this case, were the ones that celebrated their functions and practicalities like the intriguing Citroen Cactus, an honest and pure expression of what a utility vehicle can be. It felt like Citroen were boldly going where no production cars had been before with a wide variety of interesting ideas which, whilst sometimes being divisive, were never short of inspiration.
Following the functionality theme, the show was awash with crossovers and station wagons but Volvo seemed to take centre stage both literally and figuratively in this department. The message was clear and ran through everything they did, I felt more intelligent just being there. Aside from the beautifully formed surface language of the concepts, what was most impressive was Volvo’s use of colours and materials which undoubtedly took inspiration more from Scandinavian furniture than the automotive world. I was even happy to overlook the gimmicky thick-rimmed glasses that the staff were issued but they do have to be careful not to become the Hunter wellies of the automotive world. After being invited up for a closer look at their glass encased concepts and a brief chat with one of their team it seemed Volvo are destined for a bright future.
Less successful, by contrast, was the 2-Series Active Tourer. A front wheel drive watered down BMW still hiding beneath the tenuous facade of BMW’s sporting intention? Not for me, BMW have always delivered products that perform as well, if not better, than they look but this feels false with it’s aggressive looks when compared to the marvel that is the i3.
Whilst some areas of design remain stagnant, Mitsubishi and Subaru spring to mind, the majority of companies seem to be moving towards big changes, some to catch up and make themselves relevant again, others to define new trends and push things forward. The car of the show for me was the Citroen Cactus. At a glance, much like the BMW i3 and i8, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a concept car, an empty promise, but it’s so much more pertinent and profound than that, it’s a flash of colour in a sea of grey, it’s a really cool car that you can actually own.