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Vision 2030: Top Industry Designers Pen a Peek Into the Future

Nine top designers sketch out their thoughts on the rapidly approaching future

We recently asked nine of the world’s most respected automotive designers to sketch a vehicle for us and provide their thoughts about it. Our only rule was that they should create a future vision that’s a little more than a decade away. In other words, to simply draw whatever came to them. What they came up with was predominantly pragmatic in approach. Some drawings are closely related to actual future projects, but others are simply flights of fantasy. What shines through in all of them are each designer’s considerable skills, a keen sense of dedication to their profession, and a strong belief in the future of the motor car as the prevailing favorite means of personal transportation—irrespective of propulsion system and means of reaching its destination.

Mitja Borkert
Director of Centro Stile, Lamborghini

Lamborghini has always been in the supercar business. In its own segment even the Urus is a supercar. Currently, the Aventador is our flagship supercar. Having said that, I strongly believe there is room for something a lot wilder—for a hypercar. To live up to this designation, rebodying an existing vehicle won’t do. Instead, this car would have to be hyper in every way. Its proportions must be out of this world, like nothing you have ever seen before. Of course, the design revolution would extend to the functionalities. Light weight is absolutely essential, and this means most likely a carbon-fiber fuselage. Super-efficient aerodynamics must be paired with extreme downforce. As far as the drivetrain is concerned, anything goes: hybrid, electric, you name it. All that really matters is that our hypercar provides the most amazing visual statement and the most memorable driving experience money can buy.

Karim Habib
Executive Design Director, Infiniti

I know what you are thinking. This drawing shows Vision 2020, or at best Vision 2025. Too conservative, too static, too generic. Well, I beg to disagree. Because I believe that status is to an extent static: static in its elegance, in the way a classy silhouette presents itself, in that this is a hopefully timeless luxury cocoon. I did retain certain evolutionary modern touches like the big-dished wheels, the smooth, low-drag outline, and the three-box silhouette, which I think still shouts premium in 15 years’ time. The game-changing modern elements sit between the axles: a very large cabin that can be personalized like the owner’s home, a shallow battery tray stacked with hyper-effective solid-state cells, a seating arrangement that could be an HD cinema in the rear, and a rolling office up front. In case you are wondering, personally I am not yet ready to abandon the steering wheel. Far from it.

Ralph Gilles
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Head of Design

Why did I choose Chrysler for this sketch instead of a low-flung Jeep, a small Ram, or an even wilder Dodge Charger? Because Chrysler still is at the core of our DNA, and it needs a bit of TLC to rise from the ashes. In my view, the brand must reinvent itself, move away from the three-box sedan niche and in the direction of the new Pacifica, which is selling like hotcakes in California as a plug-in hybrid. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to replace the Chrysler 300 with more of the same. But the marque still needs a comfortable, well-equipped, and sustainable product that seats five and doesn’t cost a fortune. To add some sparkle, I chose gullwing doors, which are more feasible than many people think. They are priceless eye-catchers and make entry and exit so much more painless. By 2030, electric vehicles will feature big in the marketplace. To honor this trend, I went for a mix of long wheelbase and short overhangs. In the front, there is still enough space to accommodate a small gas engine. Autonomous driving is the other big thing, so the cabin layout would have to be totally flexible.

Marc Lichte
Head of Design, Audi AG

The Aicon show car gave a clear indication of where Audi design is heading. To me, the car of the future will be many things: lounge, toy, meeting room, bed on wheels, you name it. The key enablers are autopilot, electric drive, and digitalization. A self-driving car can be quite wide because it automatically handles critical parking situations. It must be aerodynamically efficient so that you can go fast through the night without stopping to recharge. And it must in our case be a real Audi, inside and out, in every detail. But since design is an evolutionary process, appearances keep changing, as do haptic and functional values. Still blocked by legal hurdles are cameras instead of door mirrors and new light effects not only to accentuate mood and ambience but also to make the car look understated and elegant or mean and sporty. But it’s the interior that takes the biggest step toward “space age.” Ergonomics are about to be reinvented!

Klaus Bischoff
Head of Volkswagen Design

My dream car combines the best of all worlds. It can be a really quick autobahn express, a self-driving intercity coach, an extroverted demonstration of advanced technology. What sets it apart from more conventional design patterns is that it also scores 10 points out of 10 on the social acceptance scale. In effect, this is what a reborn Phaeton for 2030 could look like and be like. This car is low and slippery and light, so the efficiency would be well above par. At the same time, the cabin is cosseting, roomy, and equipped with all the modern conveniences. The seats swivel. The steering wheel disappears at the push of a button. The windows darken upon request for total privacy. You don’t think it’s a Volkswagen? Perhaps not your father’s VW. But I’d like to believe it could be the Volkswagen of the future.

Peter Schreyer
Chief Design Officer, Hyundai Motor Group

Come 2030, road space will likely be at a premium, and all sorts of driving restrictions are going to apply, especially in and around megacities, where personal transportation may no longer be a factor. Within suitable urban grids, autonomous vehicles could be the logical solution. But in places like Lisbon, which is a maze never to become a grid, and throughout the many commuter belts, we will likely live with a mixed batch of vehicles for a relatively long time. This is where my little four-seater comes in, which was inspired by the drop-shape Rumpler sedan from the Golden Twenties. The idea is to combine totally flexible packaging and state-of-the-art efficiency. Means to this end would range from a small gas engine over a plug-in hybrid pack to a couple of e-motors and autonomous drive. Since it must function in mixed traffic conditions, which include ancient trucks and the odd classic car, passive safety experiments like rear-facing seats are a no-go.

Tom Matano
Executive Director, School of Industrial Design, San Francisco Academy of Art University

I really liked Chris Bangle’s L.A. show concept. It gave me food for thought. The result is this bi-directional design, which admittedly looks odd at first sight. But let me explain. When you want to go fast, the slippery end parts the wind with as little resistance as possible. When you go slow, like in town, the boxed-in, fully glazed end takes the lead, providing optimum visibility as well as easy entry. I believe that this architecture would be cheap to build and inexpensive to use. After all, the layout is scalable, from a basic shuttle vehicle to an upmarket double-bubble capsule, which could be a low-drag two-seater offering panoramic visibility. An electric drivetrain is always a compelling option, but for the Third World a two-cylinder combustion engine might do. Via 3-D tooling, no more than 12 months would elapse between conception and assembly.

Gorden Wagener
Chief Design Officer, Daimler AG

I like sexy cars, cars with awesome proportions, truly radical shapes with wow-effect interiors. Check out the Vision 6 proposals, and you catch my drift. That’s why the child inside made me draw up a futuristic coupe that works well as a bedroom poster but would never meet type approval. As you can imagine, production-car design is much more challenging. In my view, the new A-Class and the next CLS incorporate some of that mandatory sexiness, and so does the future S-Class. What raises the bar for us is the bunch of EVs that are in the making. Right now, there are not many, if any, must-have EVs out there. Which is why we leave no stone unturned to surprise you. It’s key to keep the roofline as low as possible, to make the battery pack practically invisible, to let the wheelbase and the overhangs do the talking. As far as derivative models go, there is only so much you can do. But as soon as I can start with a fresh sheet of paper …

Adrian van Hooydonk
BMW Group Chief Designer

What makes a BMW a BMW? And how should an electric BMW differ from the rest of the range? Determining a set of detail trademarks is not that difficult. Of course, there will again be a version of the kidney, an iteration of the Hofmeister kink, a set of bespoke head- and taillights. The i3 and i8 were milestone efforts not only for BMW but for the entire industry. In the future, however, our concepts must be more cost-effective and just as breathtaking to look at without being less innovative. There may always be the odd halo car like iNext, which is an important starting point for the vehicles to come. But since most EVs are going to share the basic DNA with internal combustion engine and plug-in hybrid models, design must find a way to create an affordable new look for the future i family. The Vision Dynamics exercise shown in September has many of the cues you need to paint your own picture.

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2019 Volkswagen Jetta

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

MSRP $18,545 1.4T S (Manual) Sedan