The automotive industry is subject to change. Where one brand wants to develop from a car manufacturer to a tech company, Mercedes says it focuses on design. The German car manufacturer recently opened a new design studio in the South of France. AutoWeek took a look there.
With the new Advanced Design Center, located in the hinterland of Antibes, Mercedes-Benz is returning to its roots. In 1899, a businessman from Nice, Emil Jellinek, a car developed by Daimler, took part in the race to La Turbie for the first time. He used the pseudonym "Monsieur Mercédès", after his daughter. Daimler registered that name three years later.
In Sophia Antipolis, a science park also known as the Silicon Valley of France, Mercedes works from a holistic point of view. All aspects of design are important in this regard: from exterior and interior design to digital and UI / UX design (User Interface and User Experience). New materials, shapes, techniques and applications find their way to the production models at a later stage.
"At this new location and at our other locations in Europe, America and Asia, our designers are a kind of seismograph, spotting trends and charting the demands made in the digital and analog world," says Gorden Wagener, the design boss at Mercedes.
"These requirements are then integrated into our cars. For this, car, fashion and industrial designers work together with graphic designers, modellers, designers and 3D specialists."
Gorden Wagener is design boss at Mercedes-Benz. (Photo: Daimler)
The concept of 'luxury' is slowly changing
Everywhere inspiration comes from and good looks are taken at other luxury brands and products, for example in fashion, art and culture, travel and leisure activities. The focus is then on how luxury evolves.
"Luxury is different for every person", says Wagener. "Traditionally it is about beautiful materials, quality and craftsmanship, progressive technology and a distinct style. That has always been incorporated into our products".
According to Wagener, luxury is becoming increasingly intangible. People strive for a certain self-image, are increasingly aware of what makes them happy. "Then it's not just about status, but also about more elusive concepts such as time, space, tranquility and simplicity."
He cites the rise of so-called eco resorts as an example of this shift in luxury. "That is no longer a goat wool sock thing, nowadays they are often cool, cool places."
Changes especially inside the car
During a tour of the various design stations of the studio in Sophia Antipolis, the Vision EQS - the vision of the future for a fully electrically driven S-class - illustrates all this.
On the outside, simplicity can be found in the aerodynamic, seamless design, made possible by the freedoms offered by the electric drive architecture. In addition to these lines, the 'wow factor' must come from the lighting belt that is integrated around the carriage.
In recent years, we have seen the greatest progress mainly on the inside. That will be no different in the near future.
"Developments in the field of autonomous driving, electric mobility, artificial intelligence and infotainment technology create great opportunities in styling and personalization," says Gorden Wagener.
User experience increasingly important
The above translates into an interior in the EQS in which the old analogue world is mixed with digital luxury. The lines along which the dashboard blends into the door panels are inspired by luxury yachts, as if you were sitting on a deck of a boat. But then peppered with materials and interactive systems of the future.
"UX is becoming increasingly important, but the challenge is to make it simple and intuitive for the user," says Wagener. This can be achieved by only providing the information that is required at a certain time and under certain circumstances, for example with pop-up displays.
Or by replacing buttons with tactile surfaces and displaying information in places other than the dashboard. For example with a warning projection on a door panel if you open the door while a cyclist arrives.
All distant future music what we see and hear here in the sleek, modern Advanced Design Center on the Côte d'Azur? Maybe, but don't be surprised if the new S-class, which we expect this year, already has the necessary gadgets on board.
We will see the horizontal touch screen later this year in the new Mercedes S-Class (Photo: Daimler)
The full story was in AutoWeek 2