In pursuit of driving pleasure.
The design of the Concept A-CLASS.
Ideas for the vehicles of tomorrow.
With the new A-CLASS due to be launched onto the market in 2012, the one-off "Concept A-CLASS" vehicle of the future, presented recently at the "Auto Shanghai" motor show in China, provides a foretaste of what the new model series might look like. All over the world the company's engineers and creative staff are working on ideas for the vehicles of tomorrow. Based at the "Center Interieur Design", Hartmut Sinkwitz is responsible for the design of vehicle interiors. But although his desk is in Sindelfingen, he is often to be found travelling in aeroplanes - and perhaps this is the reason why the interior of the Concept A shows clear influences from the field of aviation engineering.
The first heartbeat of a
Interview with Hartmut Sinkwitz, Director Interior Design.
Mercedes-Benz: Mr. Sinkwitz, the Concept A-CLASS represents a drastic change from the current A-Class model series. Why have you taken such a big step?
Hartmut Sinkwitz: We recognised that at Mercedes-Benz we are able to build vehicles which are even more emotionally appealing. With this new A-Class we are looking to address customers who do not primarily associate the car with any specific actual use, but rather with pure enjoyment.
The greatest emotion which a car can give rise to is making you simply want to drive off in it, even before you have any specific destination in mind. We based our design on this goal.
Mercedes-Benz: The wind and waves are supposed to have served as inspiration for the one-off vehicle. How can the wind be a source of inspiration?
Hartmut Sinkwitz: In this case, it's not just the wind itself which is the inspiration but rather the flowing, organic forms which it leaves behind, for example in a landscape of sand dunes.
Nature is our role model because it has improved itself over millions of years. It can show us ways in which we can make use of materials in a resource-efficient and effective manner.
This idea is found in our design of the dashboard and the backrests of the driver's seat: the base frame consists of a bionic sculpture, over which a translucent fabric is stretched. We barely need any material, and yet everything feels organic at the same time.
The vehicle almost looks like a space shuttle. Unlike with regular product design, we have tried to design the individual elements to look as if they are floating.
Besides nature, the second significant source of inspiration was aviation. The dashboard and air vents are reminiscent of a wing, beneath which jet engines have been affixed. Our goal was to achieve a sense of sportiness in the interior, perceived as soon as you get into the vehicle. The sense of spaciousness changes: you feel pleasantly enclosed, like a foot in a very well-fitting sports shoe.
Mercedes-Benz: How far can you go when redesigning a vehicle before you start scaring customers away?
Hartmut Sinkwitz: In the case of a one-off vehicle you can actually go a very long way. It's all a question of giving free rein to creativity. But a lot of things will also change in series production, and this is why we also take on board some very normal elements from everyday life. The free-floating screen of the navigation system looks futuristic, but since elegant flat screens have become available, devices are no longer hidden away in cupboards, they are hung on the wall or placed on the sideboard. In the future, this will also be reflected in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Mercedes-Benz: Are you not concerned that such a modern car will soon look out of date?
Hartmut Sinkwitz: No, because we have used a design idiom which is well-established. Only the composition is bold and new. If we take the air vents as an example once again, which look like jet engines: they are circular. And there is nothing more about this shape which can be enhanced. You will not find any graphical elements in this car which you feel will soon look old.
Mercedes-Benz: You were present when the one-off A-Class vehicle was presented in Shanghai. On such occasions, do you feel like an artist who is presenting his work to the public for the first time?
Hartmut Sinkwitz: Such launches like this are always a special moment. The cover was removed, the guests pressed forward and they asked questions. Journalists also took some group photos with the vehicle and the Head of Design, Gorden Wagener. Personally I was able to enjoy it, because it was not me who was in the limelight, but rather our new baby, tomorrow's A-Class.