Peter Stevens’ 2015 Geneva Show Review

Great lines, great colors and great marques in disarray?

There were interesting opportunities to see some great colors and some fascinating contrast whilst looking at the same cars in different colors at the Geneva show. However, one of the most interesting cars that needed close examination and an understanding of why it looked as it did was the Pininfarina Ferrari Sergio.

I know that many journalists and design critics found the car to be too visually restrained for their taste; ‘shock and awe’ being very much a current, probably short lived, fashion. It is necessary to know that Pininfarina will build only six examples of the Sergio and, by chance, customers in not just six different countries but also in as many different continents have bought them.

Pininfarina Sergio (2015)

The major challenge for Pininfarina, and Chief Designer Fabio Filippini in particular, was that each car had to meet the local homologation regulations in those very different markets without compromising the design. Even the original Ferrari 458 windscreen had to be retained. Yet all the lines are totally under control and to my mind perfect. As a production development of the original Sergio roadster show car, this model represents an opportunity to return to what Filippini sees as Pininfarina’s roots — the production of ‘serie limitata’ or small series production runs of special models — which is what most excites him about the project.

Ferrari’s new 488 GTB was shown in both red and a metallic gray and the contrast was very interesting; the red car looked flat and the surfaces were hard to read but the gray color brought the form to life. Critics were saying that because the 488 is turbocharged, Ferrari had been forced to make more intake and outlet ducts. That may be, but they were well handled. Toyota showed a couple of Aygos, one in white with black details and the other in black with white details, one just did not work as well as the other (which was that?).

Bentley EXP10 Speed 6 concept

Bentley brought one of the finest show vehicles that I have seen to Geneva 2015. Aside from the design, it was the quality of the model that grabbed the attention of viewers. The car was great too, brilliant color and a fine proportion. Chief Designer, Luc Donckerwolke, was very aware of the responsibility of overseeing the design of the most sporting Bentley to come from the company in the VW era, “everyone would be looking at the car to see if it concurred with their idea of what a sporting Bentley should be, I was actually quite concerned that I should not disappoint”, he said.

I think that the grille is too big and it’s corner radii are too tight, and maybe the headlamps needed a bit of tuning. The problem for Donckerwolke will be that the potential customers all loved it and sales staff may well be saying “don’t change anything, people will buy it just as it is”, and that fine tuning may become difficult to achieve.

Has the Geneva show been unkind to Aston Martin or has Aston Martin been unkind to Geneva? Four cars on their stand and you can’t drive any of them on the road! The tough looking GT3 is for track use only; weak graphics but a good stance and serious looking aero pieces — the hood top outlet ducts were interesting and well handled, but track use only? Hidden at the back of the stand in a narrow room was a Lagonda. It was impossible to judge the car in the confined space but images on the Internet reveal a car of strange side-view proportion.

Back on the stand there was the new Vulcan, another car ‘for track use only’. A huge rear wing that hung over the back of the car dominated the design, making for an odd appearance. The light metallic green was a good color applied to an unresolved form with some uncomfortable changes of surface.

The color of the DBX concept — Aston’s proposal for a ‘soft-roader’ – received a lot of criticism. Despite being very superficially shiny ,the paint looked dull and flat, it was impossible to see what color it actually was. The cant rails were machined from two enormous pieces of aluminum — they looked crude and heavy. I overheard an Aston sales person on the stand enthusing about these pieces. He was saying that the finish showed a truth to the material and honesty about the process. Well they were obviously aluminum and had clearly been machined, you could see all the coarse milling marks on the surface; this was an example of the ‘tool cutter path’ engineers’ process rather than the designers control over surface. And an Aston with all the grace of a jacked up Miami 32-inch wheeled Camaro, on the show’s fussiest wheels, was a sad thing to see.

Ford Escort Mexico was the first car Stevens worked on (1971)

Audi helped me with my continuously evolving thoughts about the difference between styling and design by showing its proposed new R8. And there on the Ford stand was an example of the first project I worked on as a young designer in the Dunton studio, an Escort Mexico. Slightly flared from wheel arch lips, neat little front quarter bumpers and thin black graphic tapelines were all I did but I loved the result!

About Peter Stevens
Peter Stevens is a world-renowned vehicle designer and former Visiting Professor of Vehicle Design at the Royal College of Art in London. Over the course of his career, he’s been chief designer at Lotus Cars, McLaren and Lamborghini and design director for MG, Mahindra and Mahindra and Rivian Automotive. He’s also worked as a design consultant for Prodrive, BMW, Williams and Toyota. You can catch up with his antics on his Facebook page and his new website.


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