Volvo’s stand at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show left no doubt about the design influence for the Concept Coupe unveiled at the show. It was billed as the next-generation P1800, and a version of the 1960s coupe was on prominent display on the Volvo stand, overlooking the concept.
The car is the work of Senior Vice President of Design Thomas Ingenlath, who joined the company from the Volkswagen Group last year. It is the first project that he has worked on for Volvo.
AEI asked Ingenlath what specific features he set out to include in the design. He said: “One thing that I really consider a mission is to make what we call Scandinavian design—the style of an elegant, calm surface treatment, a logic to it, the beauty of something that is not overloaded with details and things that shout at you—and to make that a convincing statement of aesthetic beauty. Not to connect to a funny object that people consider interesting but would not really intend to purchase, but something desirable.
“Then I think to show that Volvo, with all its character and own profile, can be this desirable product. That is really a mission that I see for us as a design department, but then again, Peter Mertens (Volvo’s head of Research and Development) is certainly driven by the same vision of that.”
Ingenlath interprets Scandinavian design as something he feels is rooted strongly in Swedish society—“an utterly clear connection to the human. That is where safety comes from. It’s not just a marketing claim that is generated and then we somehow try to fulfill it. It’s just shaping that nature and naming it. That is why 'designed around you,' as marketing-ish as it may sound, is very honest and truthful to the brand.”
Design is integrated with manufacturing and engineering in most car companies today, so how much of a free hand was Ingenlath given in the design and the materials used?
“If you ask me, I would say we were very free," he said. "If you ask my designers, they will say we were not very free because I was the one who was very strict about keeping certain rules. I wanted so much not to propose fancy proportions. I mean the temptation, for example, to make this car into a super sport car look—making it lower, longer bonnet, whatever. I was really strict about, ‘stick to the package, we don’t need that.’
"The architecture is brave, it will deliver great proportions, and the connection that we will keep to reality will be a good one. That is why, for example, the volume of the bonnet is absolutely truthful to what we will have in our next limousine, so that is very much straightforward. Of course, then you have questions like ‘where exactly is the bumper?’ Yes, that is something where you have a little bit more freedom.”
Although there is a clear reference to the P1800, Ingenlath did not feel that he had to study 1960s coupe styling to design the Concept Coupe. He also believes that there must be a clear connection with the brand.
“Something that I definitely try to avoid is when you sit down as a car company and you do a show car, that at the end, people are impressed by the quality and the massive impact of the design, but it’s so disconnected with what’s happening in the brand," he said. "I was even warning my designers, almost saying: ‘Stop it, if you go even more into, you know designing, designing, designing, it will just become a design object on its own and it’s almost too detached from reality.'
“I think we’re on the border here. The interior, for example, is so beautiful that now it’s an effort for me to even make sure that people understand that that crystal gear lever is actually not a show car item but is actually something that we will have in production.”