Great Concepts But Don’t Let the Designer Speak About Them, Please.

Thomas Ingenlath – dedicated follower of fashion. How disappointing.

2016 Volvo V40 concept car: source
2016 Volvo V40 concept car: source

CMA has helped us to capture something special, something youthful in our new concept cars. They have an energy, a disruptive and engaging urban character that makes them stand out.” So says Thomas Ingenlath (Senior VP Design) about the Concept 40 shown today by Volvo. When I turned my keyboard to this little bit of news I intended to do a short design review. Instead I saw the word “disruptive” thrown into the word salad Mr Ingenlath spouted in his attempts to sound modern, up-to-speed and edge-like (edgy?). Disruptive is a word used by futurologists and fans of Uber and Airbnb to dramatize technology that changes things.

2016 Volvo V40 concept: source
2016 Volvo V40 concept: source

Actually all new technology is disruptive and always has been. But can a car design be disruptive? What is being disrupted by a new form?  The existing forms are still there and

2016 Volvo V40 concept car profile marked up

maybe we view them slightly differently. But I don´t think my impressions of the 1997 Toyota RAV-4 or 2013 Kia Ceed will markedly change. No, this word is being used where

2016 Volvo V40 concept car profile lines

perhaps “DNA” or “edgy” might have been deployed. I expect Ingenlath has been reading Monocle magazine or possibly he leafed through the Financial Times while waiting for a hair cut last month. Here´s the word again: “”By focusing on the needs of urban millennials, we can strike a disruptive blow to a stale segment.” I think that this was the idea behind the Ford Fusion? All that to one side, I do like this vehicle. It is chunky and robust without being as laughably aggressive as the Land Rover equivalent. Were that the C-pillar was less absurdly oversized and perhaps black roof paint is a touch passé.

And this is how the car would look if the C-pillar wasn´t as high or thick as it is (along with the original).

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Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Great Concepts But Don’t Let the Designer Speak About Them, Please.”

  1. It’s not half as agreeable as the XCSV90 model range, yet it helps me understand what Audi were trying to achieve with that Q2.

    The only true pity is that even Geely-era Volvo feels forced to add a sense aggression to its products. Given they avoided that in surprisingly convincing fashion with the gargantuan XC90, it’s all the more surprising that they see a need to add that whiff of rage to its smaller brother.

  2. I am a touch disappointed by this Concept 40. It features a number of tropes that appear counter to Volvo’s traditions. Firstly, the overaggressive design. Volvos have generally always presented the benign face of the automotive world, demarcating a friendly place in otherwise threatening environments. Secondly, the rising belt line. Not only is this fast becoming a cliche, the compromised visibility creates a safety issue contrary to Volvo’s history. And thirdly, the contrasting roof. I know these are trendy at the moment, but this looks lifted straight from the Captur.

  3. Actually, I was going to respond mentioning ‘edgy’, but I see you did already. My own experience, is that the people who describe some aspect of design as ‘edgy’ are, themselves, signally not very ‘edgy’ in the least, so they are viewing it on a conservatively biased scale of edginess. I’m supposed to be at that reactionary age, when the disruptive and edgy give me apoplexy. Sorry Thomas, but this isn’t frightening any of my horses.

  4. Thomas Ingenlath had to find something positive to say about another ‘urban’ SUV concept. It’s hideous. The other concept they revealed at the same time is more interesting.

  5. Nice review and explanation of the styling, Richard, thanks – I always enjoy them and learn something. To me, much of this car says “Skoda”, indeed if someone had told me this was a previewing”concept” for the new Yeti I would have sat here nodding to myself. I quite like it, but prefer it with Richard’s amends. It’s not quite what I hoped of Volvo, which has been on a roll, but it’s still pleasing.

    A similarly designed 3-box saloon was shown at the same time. This I prefer – it’s like a more interesting and better presented Octavia; the fact that I’m thinking Skoda again probably means it is not Volvo enough. Still, the architecture of this platform shows intelligence and ambition from Geely/ Volvo, and puts PSA, Ford and others to shame.

  6. Oh, and as for ‘disruptive’, the sector of the economy in which I have spent my whole career is currently being disrupted by things called ‘fintech’ and ‘altfi’ businesses – most of which are scandalously not regulated and are going to create the next Financial Services disaster. In other words – beware of BS words like that, they usually spell trouble.

  7. The replies have prompted me to reconsider: it’s a bit Skoda (subliminally I felt that and could not express it) and it is a bit aggressive. It’s still not bad and aspects of it are quite good (the bonnet and lamps).

  8. These two Volvo concepts were the most inspiring automotive news of a grim week.

    Like all right thinking people, I deplore the 40.1’s huge C-pillar. Spen King, who in his final years campaigned vigorously against such affronts, would have been horrified. Richard’s improvements enhance the resemblance to the Ssangyong Tivoli, no bad thing.

    The hybrid engineering is interesting, something akin to a BMW i8 powertrain in a small SUV. Volvo also seem to have been cleverer than VAG in their integration of a dual clutch transmission with hybrid drive. VAG do it with a third clutch. It’s further evidence of hybrids evolving on their way to becoming mainstream.

  9. While both concepts are relatively pleasing, they strike me as being akin to a design student’s thesis rather than something Volvo is apparently going to put into production in the near future. Of the two, the saloon-hatchback variant appeals more, apart from its crossover stance, which one hopes will be remedied by the time it sees production.

    What is lacking is the calm and assured surfaces of the top-line models – these appear to be trying a little too hard. Often these days one sees a concept and hopes the manufacturer will change as little as possible before production. With this duo, I find myself hoping they tone them down quite considerably in the interim.

  10. Scion tried to capture the “yoof” market in the USA and it worked for about three years and ever since then it was an utter flop until the day Toyota pulled the plug on their “yoof” brand. This is Volvo trying to do the same and it is utterly patronising. Awful concepts both, especially the high riding sedan/hatch abomination. No thanks Volvo: please stick to your core values and don’t dabble in things you really shouldn’t since you have NO idea how to do it nor should you even attempt to lure in younger buyers at this price point. Scion worked with little square, boxy and cheap baby cars. Trying to do it for double the price at the Golf price point?! Dream on darlings.

    1. Somehow I have the feeling you’re underestimating the propensity for the (moneyed) youth to buy into perceived heritage and values as long as it is correctly packaged for them. I can see this car do well, albeit for the wrong reasons.

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