The Future of Automotive Design

I recently posted a picture on social media, which I and many other people do often. In this instance, however, I didn’t include any context or explanation, just led with a straight-up statement: “this is the future of automotive design.”  

The photograph I used to illustrate this blanket statement was of Los Angeles-based start-up Canoo’s new vehicle subscription service, which depicted how one platform could be used to underpin myriad vehicle typologies.   

When I was referring to ‘the future of automotive design’ I wasn’t speaking of Canoo specifically. I was looking at the vehicle design industry as a whole. The future is not only the modularity of the concept, but the shared platform across all vehicle formats and, of course, the subscription model.   

We’ve already seen the concept of modularity explored in Italdesign Giugiaro’s magnificent Capsula concept from 1982, and it’s been touted on numerous student projects since then. The problem is, it’s never come to fruition in production guise.   

The team over at Canoo — which largely consists of former BMW and Faraday Future designers and engineers — is looking to change that.   

The second aspect of this new mobility proposal is the common platform. Again, this isn’t entirely new — we’ve seen platform sharing on Chrysler’s K Cars of the 1980s and every manufacturer from Audi to Volvo is using some form of shared, modular platform to underpin its vehicles these days. It sheds significant development costs and clearly makes sense when growing economies of scale.   

The future lies in making these common platforms, loaded with batteries and electrical drivetrains, host a number of different body styles, which is what Giugiaro’s proposal did. Chrysler’s K Cars were really just an exercise in badge engineering. There was very little fundamental change, let alone a ‘K’ van or pickup truck.  

Finally, the subscription model is gaining some traction thanks to the paradigm change taking place in the world right now. To massively oversimplify: people’s values are changing and new experiences now outweigh ownership.  

Volvo XC40 in Milan

As with the first two examples above, subscription mobility is nothing new. Volvo was the first manufacturer to introduce this interesting new user element in the compact XC40 SUV. But it’s arguably been going on since the advent of the Taxi and popularised by technology apps such as Uber.   

The Canoo is an interesting new transportation service that combines a multitude of on-trend and very relevant mobility elements into one concept from one company. And that is why it is an example of the future of automotive design.


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