Many designers are leaving Europe’s saturated marketplace behind for the promise of a new life with seemingly endless possibilities in the Far East, and China in particular.
One such designer is Andreas Deufel, who left Mercedes-Benz to join TJ Innova Engineering & Technology and also fill the role of design director at Great Wall Motors (GWM). We previously covered his appointment here.
Speaking to Form Trends, Deufel said that the reason for the influx of Western car designers to the ‘new world’ is due to a combination of factors — namely the economic slowdown in Europe paired with growing demand in China. Deufel says moving to China was an “excellent career move” where the financial aspects are dramatically better, but it also allowed him to explore new challenges and a new culture.
“They want to improve dramatically on the quality of their products, but they cannot do this on their own,” said Deufel, likening the Chinese market to a bakery without enough bread. “They need help, and there are plenty of experienced designers from the old [Western] world who can help them do this.”
But what is it like to live and work in that environment? And how does it differ from the more established markets in the world? We spoke to Deufel at great length to find out.
What have you learned about the Chinese automotive industry since moving there in 2010?
“The Chinese car industry is a massive place to make products. In Mercedes-Benz you would have a task to develop five or six models per year, here, we do about 50. The pace is much faster. The possibilities to bring proposals to production is just so much higher. Companies work differently, they’re more goal orientated, so the products will get much better.
“In order to understand the Chinese auto industry, one must first understand the Chinese customer. There is a massive variety. There are the people who barely have money to jump from electric bicycles to a scooter and then eventually to a car – they have a need to get around. Many of these people find new wealth, they have their own businesses. Ten or 20 years ago they had nothing to eat and now they’re starting businesses.
“I first came to China to work for TGI, the largest vehicle developer in the country, which manufactures roughly 35 percent of all vehicles in China. We develop complete vehicles and give the tools to start up companies so they can start manufacturing. The understanding of the product is very limited, but they rely on the company in order to give them a product that will be successful in the market because we’ve done it before. You don’t find these problems in more developed parts of the world.
“But there is a basic need for transportation. When they acquire money they want to be seen in something that they like and that represents them. In China you don’t find two-box cars like the VW Golf, you find sedans, because as little as these vehicles might be they have a certain image for the people who buy them. It says that they can afford something.
“In China it’s very easy to become wealthy. Very wealthy. The income possibilities are endless. As soon as they find a product they have a need to show the money. They want to best of the best. There is a lot of distrust in their own industry.”