NAIAS 2016 | Part IV : The Other brands

Naias 2016-4

Volvo seems to be regaining its footing under Chinese ownership. The acclaimed XC90 SUV has helped drive US sales from 56,000 in 2014 to 70,000 in 2015, so the addition of the all-new S90 sedan should accelerate that volume growth.  The S90 shares a bold front-end theme with its SUV partner, featuring cool headlamps.  The car has a bold “substantial” look that reinforces the Volvo trademark emphasis on safety.  The interior is pleasing and the whole car seems to be well executed.  Whether they can really go it alone in this market and maintain a viable presence remains to be seen.

Kia unveiled the refreshed Forte and Forte5 sedans and hatchbacks.   The designs are competent, but not striking.

The big news on the stand was the Telluride concept.  It is a rather boxy SUV and yet another example of the pillar-less, suicide door fad.  The design was widely acclaimed, but frankly we are not sure why!  The front end is blunt and rather dated and the bodyside heavily sculptured.  The rear view is perhaps the best, clean and simple with sophisticated vertical taillamps accentuating the width.  The Telluride received quite a few votes for best concept at the show – but not from us – especially not in that shade of dark olive green!
Hyundai launched the newest luxury car brand “Genesis” at the show announcing the G90, a Mercedes S-Class sized rear wheel drive sedan, which is be followed by smaller G80 and G70 models and perhaps an SUV. The G90 looks like a serious contender in the class with a full complement of leather and wood on the inside and a dominating exterior.  The grille is a bit too much like an Audi in our opinion, but the strong crease lines on the body side and on the hood flowing up the A-Pillar provide some individual character.
To provide some additional excitement at the Genesis launch, the Vision G Concept was unveiled. This is yet another large two-door coupe, but it is certainly a beautiful car.  A strong bodyside crease flows all the way from the front grille to the tailamp.  A second feature line extends the belt line onto the hood, where it joins two more creases that are continued over the roof.  The rear surfaces are quite complex, but skillfully drawn.   One oddity is the door release handle that is on the quarter panel rather than the door itself.
The interior was luxurious as you might expect, although the instrument panel is rather simplistic. Overall we liked the car (in spite of the fact that several features seem to be “borrowed” from competitor designs) and it would make a great flagship for this new brand.  No doubt that the arrival of Luc Donckerwolke will make Genesis a successful brand.
VL Automotive was founded by Bob Lutz and Gilbert Villareal with a business plan to take incomplete Fisker Karmas (Fisker is now owned by Wanxiang) and replace the hybrid propulsion system with a conventional Corvette powertrain producing the Destino. Of the exterior body panels, only the doors are common with the original Karma.  The Destino is clearly better looking than the already striking Karma – both inside and out.  Even if VL runs out of Karma gliders, there appears to be a good opportunity in converting customer owned Karmas to Corvette power.
It was announced at the show that Henrik Fisker has now joined VL and the company has been renamed VLF Automotive to incorporate his initial. To signal Henrik’s involvement VLF revealed a stunning new design based on the Viper chassis and powertrain called the Force 1 V10.  This car (a prototype) which was built in about 6 weeks, is about 8 inches wider than a Viper.  It uses the Viper rear tyres on the front and even bigger rubber at the rear.  What’s not to like about this monster?  Well not much really, perhaps the funny “wing thing” at the trailing edge of the roof and perhaps the overly small and “squinty” headlamps, but overall we really hope that they are able to produce this baby for some lucky customers.
And so what seemed like a fairly ordinary show in the beginning actually had quite a few gems to keep us excited. The industry remains creative and vibrant, always bringing us back for more.  On to Geneva………….


After three beautiful concepts, the wait is coming to an end at the Mondial de l’Automobile: Volvo is unveiling a production car: the XC90. It is introducing the Volvo style led by German Thomas Ingenlath and a hybrid engine of 400 hp. It is clear to see the filiation with the three previous concepts cars seen in Frankfurt, Detroit and Geneva.
The new XC90 is the first vehicle to feature the redesigned logo, the well-known iron emblem, with the iconic spire of the company aligned with the diagonal bar across the grid. The headlights are designed like a T-shape called « Hammer of Thor » by the communication team…No doubt that the iron logo presents an innovative and distinctive face, fitting with the impression of strength the next generation Volvo vehicles ahead should give.
In term of volume and shape there is no surprise: it is a Volvo. And the style is clearly robust even though it is not very advanced. Surfaces are very clean and simple with no extravaganza, but this is what you can expect from a Volvo. It might look a little bit too reserved for some of us and certainly appears less innovative and futuristic than any of the previous concept, but remember, this one is a production car.
« The overall impression of both the inside and outside is closely related to key elements of the Swedish way of life, generous space, importance of light and focus on well-being, » says Thomas Ingenlath, Vice President for Design at Volvo Car Group. And this is well translated in the exterior design since you are attracted to open the door because you feel you are coming home…And when you open the door…you are home!
The interior space is huge and light. It can accommodate seven passengers easily. The thin seat design allows more space. The third row offers comfortable space for two passengers measuring up to 1.70 meters. The simplicity, even in its luxury, of the interior fits perfectly with the idea of the Scandinavian design heritage. The combination of leather, crystal – for the gear shift knob – and wood, with handmade details, gives you the feeling of sitting home in a sofa, ready to read a good book next to your fireplace. And when you do that, you usually want to listen to some good music…isn’t it? This is why Volvo audio designers have worked together with their counterparts in the British audio equipment company renowned Bowers & Wilkins. This car is an auditorium.
The most striking feature of the new XC90 is the fact that the center of the dashboard is identical to a touch screen tablet, which forms the heart of the new integrated control system. From that the driver and its passenger can have access to the whole car systems and to the connected services.

GENEVA 2014 | Volvo Estate Concept

After the Concept Coupé in Frankfort and the XC Coupé in Detroit, Volvo has unveiled latest showcar of its trilogy: the Concept Estate. What can we say but that the third concept is the most ambitious especially in its interior. This shooting brake continues to give us a hint of what the future exterior design of Volvo will be. When we see it, we know it is a Volvo. Designers have taken their inspiration in the history of the Scandinavian brand: the 1800 ES from the early 1970s. It is clear, especially on the rear part.
Volvo has introduced all new digital concepts for the interior preserving what we expect from Volvo. Thanks to its association with Volvo’s specially designed software, the touch screen will be the main control panel for in-car user experience. Almost all buttons are replaced and we appreciate, however, that there are still a few dedicated for crucial commands (volume, play/pause, hazard warning…)
Touchscreen is nice but important controls need physical commands.
If the XC Concept is anticipating the future XC90 due in a year, there is no doubt that this Estate gives us significant clues of a future model…


Following the Concept C Coupe shown in Frankfurt, Volvo demonstrated further product aggression with the Concept XC Coupe introduced at the Detroit show.  Sharing a similar, bold front end with the C Coupe, the XC is a two-door estate car or station wagon with dramatic tail lamps extending the Volvo tradition in this area.  Two-door station wagons are not the most logical of vehicles, but this one looks good and would be a handsome addition to the Volvo line up.  Full marks to ‘the new Volvo’ for creating these interesting concepts.
The one criticism we have for the XC is the use of grey painted trim mouldings throughout the car.  Clearly this was intended to create a different look for the concept and to that extent the designers succeeded.  However, we think that the “industrial plastic” look that resulted diminished the overall value of the vehicle.  Properly designed, bright trim, or jewelry, goes a long way to making a vehicle look high quality, rich and appealing.  The touches of orange paint on the front and rear bumpers are no substitute for tasteful brightwork.


IAA 2013 | Volvo Concept Coupé

With the Volvo Concept Coupé the Swedish company demonstrated a certain kind of wisdom in the design direction. Some will say that it is rather “dejà-vu”, but the style remains elegant. In contrast to the Lexus discussed above, lines are clean, simple and justified.The design language is clearly understandable — you quickly feel comfortable with it. We are willing to bet that the next generation XC or V will have a lot of influence from this design direction. One small detail we felt was important: the shape of the line under the door handle is reminiscent of the P1800…That’s part of the Volvo heritage, isn’t it?