MONTEREY, CALIF. After breaking free from the constraints of road legality legislation, it is clear what car designers get from making prototype cars. But car designers don’t run car companies, and in a company with such tight margins, there must be a financial necessity to bother creating a car that may never see production.
which is there. Running the gamut from next year’s model in slight disguise all the way to “none of this yet but wouldn’t be great” fantasy rides, the concepts serve as a way to gauge the tastes of the general public when it comes to something new. At this year’s Quail at Monterey Car Week, I spoke with Filip Brabec, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Audi of America, to get a perspective of the suits on concept cars.
Specifically, I wanted to know what the process looks like from the practical side of the business. For example, does the design team come up with a new concept as a fait accompli? As it turns out, that’s not at all how it works.
“So, first of all, it’s not a process of different steps; it’s more organic in the sense that we usually brainstorm these things together,” Brabec told me. “So what we do I think is really good with Gael [Buzyn, Audi of America’s senior design director] Team, do we look at the market together, we look at the sectors, and we say, “Gee, that’s going to be kind of cool.” So we brainstorm together somehow.”
“And that’s good because it kind of gets them to do certain things. And then we leave them alone. Then they kind of do their own operation. Then something comes up. And it’s an idea, usually, and now together again, we start building on that idea.” . What if we did this? What if we did that?” Brabec said.
As you may have noticed, some model cars are closer to reality than others. “So if you look at Skysphere, or even if you look at PB18, you might say, ‘Well, that’s a little further in terms of reality, right?'” “The 2018 PB18 and last year’s Skysphere both rely on technologies not yet ready, such as solid-state batteries and autonomous driving. And each feature ideas that might never appear in a production car, such as a driver’s seat that moves to the car’s centerline or a wheelbase that grows By approximately a foot.
Brabec continued, “But if you look at the world of space, you can say, ‘Well, I can imagine making that car.’ Unveiled last September, it’s a great, futuristic big touring car.” Now, we can take out elements of that and say, “Well, where can we apply these elements?” But it also aligns with the next style trend as well.”
“What we almost never do, certainly not with Gayle, ‘Oh, there he is. Picture, now, what are we going to do with it? “It’s always organic. And then we think about it from a feasibility study point of view, because that’s really the next step: trying to figure out can I market this? Or is it just a great idea, but at two million dollars no one is going to buy it.”
The newest concept of the field is Urbansphere, designed with major Chinese cities and traffic in mind. It’s a big EV beast, with a massive interior that takes the Grandsphere’s luxurious front seats and puts another pair in the back. But the potential market for that EV could be the future version of someone buying a Q7 today.
“That’s one way to think about it. Sure. And there, we can have a long discussion. But then there’s another kind of aspect to saying, ‘Okay, but can I use this as a way to navigate that is used more as a service?” ‘ There are ways of thinking about it that we don’t necessarily just have to immediately consumer. That’s why I stay open about it,” he explained.
But it is not all futuristic. Even on high concepts like these. “I can tell you that all cars have elements that we use in our future cars – without arguing, you’ll soon see the first bits of how it all starts to look. Lighting elements, interior elements and various things that we definitely are already employing in our next cars,” Brabec said.
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