Thomas Ingenlath, Senior Vice President Design at Volvo Car Group, has been in his current role for a year.
After having made the move to Sweden from Volkswagen’s design studio in Potsdam, on the outskirts of Berlin, he brought along Maximillian Missoni – with whom he worked at VW – to lead exterior design a scant six months later. The VW team in Potsdam, on the outskirts of Berlin, couldn’t have been too pleased. Skhortly thereafter, in yet another blow to the Volkswagen Group, former Bentley interior design director Robin Page also joined in the mix.
So what has the new Design VP been up to since his move to the Nordic territories?
“Volvo Cars was already transforming rapidly when I joined the company in 2012,” says Ingenlath. “My team and I have focused on creating a new interpretation of the design language. It will help taking this great brand in the desired direction.”
Here’s an interview with Ingenlath on what the future holds for Volvo.
Why did you choose to join Volvo Cars?
“Everyone that knows me well would agree that Volvo is a perfect match for me. I have never been an instant crowd-pleaser who likes fast and loud designs. I am thoughtful. I like to explore the intellectual elements below the surface. If you do that right, the aesthetics will come naturally.
“Volvo is a human-centric brand with an exceptionally strong heritage. It is exciting to create a new design expression that supports the established brand values as well as the repositioning towards a more distinctive premium brand.”
What’s your view of Scandinavian Design?
“Well, since Volvo Cars is the only remaining automotive brand in Sweden, we are by definition the only carmaker that can create original Scandinavian Design. The challenge is to create a modern, desirable interpretation.
“To me, Scandinavian Design according to Volvo is firmly rooted in the values of the Swedish society and the way of life enabled by this unique environment. Our approach goes beyond just bringing Scandinavian design items and signatures into our cars. Our job is to understand the spirit and the confidence that make Scandinavian design so special. Then we must translate it into car design.”
What is your approach?
“It is important to recognize that Scandinavian design will only be perceived as attractive if it is crafted with precision and attention to detail. Meticulous execution and consistent quality are prerequisites to qualify for the premium league of automakers.”
Can you explain the new design direction?
“In my opinion, Volvo design has always had a certain authority. We aim to extend this calm, intelligent and strong side of our brand with a greater potency, modernity and expressiveness. Concept Coupé clearly expresses this direction.
“Outdoor activities are an important part of the Swedish lifestyle. We will continue to refine Volvo’s strong connection to these activities with more emphasis on modernity. It’s about making functionality an emotional experience. Just like an exclusive goose down jacket, our cars will have a true feeling of sophistication with an underlying strength and capability.
“Creativity is thriving in the Swedish society. This includes design and technology as well as the fashion, music and art scene. We use this as an inspiration for creating a new kind of attainable luxury. Our future cars will show that there are new, exciting ways to express the soul of Sweden.”
What opportunities does the new Scalable Product Architecture [Similar to Volkswagen’s MQB] create for the designers?
“The new architecture enables us to create the great proportions that are important to achieve a premium look. The dash to axle ratio is more generous than any other architecture I have worked with before. This gives us the opportunity to be up there among the top premium brands when it comes to proportions.
“The hip point is another example of the new opportunities. It is low enough to create a low profile on a sleek sedan without compromising headroom.”
Which are the most the most prominent new design signatures?
“Every strong brand needs a set of visual keys that makes it unique. Future Volvos will be characterized by the distinctive iron mark in the floating grille, flanked by the T-shaped DRL lights. The larger [hood] with its new topography, the beltline spanning an elegant bow along the whole car and the sharpened shoulder connecting with the new rear light are other important design signatures. They all contribute to the confident stance. The overall simplicity, both exterior and interior, has a strong connection to the Scandinavian lifestyle.”
You’ve brought in Robin Page as interior design director. What’s in store for Volvo’s interiors?
“We will continue to build on the premium feel in the new Volvo V40. The new user interface with a large, portrait touch-screen in the center console allows us to remove almost all buttons. This simplicity is perfectly in tune with our Scandinavian design heritage. It opens up clean surfaces that give us the opportunity to create a luxurious interior experience with new forms.
“We will deliver on our brand promise to make Volvo customers feeling special by blending, classic handcrafted elements with distinctive, surprising delight details.”