“Designing one of the top two factors on the priority list of car buyers”

Collaborations and technology sharing are more and more common in the automotive world. And then there’s electrification, which could further standardize the driving experience. So how can automakers make their products stand out?

“When a lot of things start to harmonize on the tech side, it’s the design and the experience that really becomes fundamental in the car buying process,” said Pratap Bose, Design Director, Automotive & Agriculture Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra Recount India coach during a recent Brobot Interact – a series of discussions about the automotive industry. “Today, exterior design is often cited as one of the top two reasons to buy a particular car.”

He continued, “More and more, we’re finding that the interior experience – the way you interact with the car, electronics, UI, and UX (user interface and experience) – also takes on incredible weight. in the decision of buyers. The touchscreen has become the center of people’s attention, Bose believes there is more to come. “I see a time when the other senses will start to play a bigger role, for example, voice control, haptics and gestures, where you don’t touch anything but can still make the car react.

A bigger disruption, however, will come from electrification. “Electric vehicles will make a huge change in the amount of cabin space you can have for a particular footprint because you don’t have to devote a third of the length of a car to an engine. So, again, I think a real revolution is underway, ”he said. Bose further noted that with its growing importance, design can effectively serve both form and function.

Personalization, mass production start to go hand in hand
The emotional connection with the design of a car is evident from the fact that there has always been a strong desire among the Indian masses to personalize their cars. Commenting on the trend, Niranjan Babu, Manager, OEM (Pvt Car) and Automotive Alliances, Reliance General Insurance, said, “Until the end of 2018, there was a significant market for automotive remodeling. But in January 2019, the Supreme Court of India issued a verdict barring owners from making significant structural changes to their vehicles. Prior to this order, every change to a vehicle came with an additional (insurance) premium – whether it was wider wheels (which attracted an additional 18% premium), updated brakes or turbocharged / supercharged engine (which would attract an additional 160% premium.). “

He added: “After the verdict, every automaker started offering all of these features with original equipment. As such, all these aspects are now covered under normal all-risk insurance, with very standard supplements.

Picking up on the subject, Bose added, “A lot of people want to put their own signature on their cars, but in the process, they might make them unsafe, because we design and design cars in a certain way. For example, if you install a bull bar on the car, it can seriously compromise safety. So we are constantly trying to incorporate these custom elements into the design itself.

“Today, offering two-tone roofs is a common practice. It came from people’s desire to express themselves differently, but today we are incorporating it into the design. In a similar vein, it’s not uncommon for automakers today to offer optional packs that improve various aesthetic elements, including the wheels and headlights.

“So customization and mass manufacturing start to go hand in hand, despite being two opposite ends of the world. This is something that has happened recently in automotive design and it will happen more in the future, ”said Bose.

Designed to allow frequent facelifts
Speaking about updating a model’s design throughout its lifecycle, Bose said, “Previously, a car’s lifecycle was planned – we would launch it, run it out in eight to eight. 10 years and we intervened halfway. “

However, with the constant desire of people for new designs, this has changed dramatically. “Now, not only has a 10-year lifecycle been reduced to six-seven years, but even during that period you will have to intervene at least two or three times, if not more.”

Thus, the designers cleverly try to incorporate certain elements that would allow frequent updates, without significant capital investment. “I can give you an example. The area of ​​the front fender, where the fender, headlight, and bumper meet, will start to get much more streamlined. It is easier and cheaper to redesign plastic parts. So you’ll see headlights start to fit into the bumper and have very little to do with the fender, ”Bose said.

“These are decisions that are driven by the need for constant updating. I don’t think this intensity is higher anywhere than in India. Customers expect something new every 12-18 months.

Safety-guided design
Besides its aesthetic aspects, the design of vehicles must also meet certain requirements. “The height of the hood, the length of the front overhang or the width of the car – it’s all influenced by (safety) regulations. This also affects, of course, the materials. For example, we use a lot more materials, like high strength steel, than we’ve ever used before in mass production cars, ”Bose said.

It also affects other aspects of the automotive industry. “Any design change that improves vehicle safety will be beneficial for an insurer. The growth of most insurance companies depends directly on the auto industry, as 40% of general insurance premiums come from auto insurance, ”Babu said.

Design to reduce the total cost of ownership
Plus, smart designs can help lower costs for buyers during vehicle ownership. “When we are designing cars, it is always good to have valuable items, such as headlights, taillights and fog lights, in an area that is somehow protected from damage, in case of small incidents during the process. daily driving. I think it’s important to keep those expensive exterior design elements out of the areas that you may need to replace often. Overall cost of ownership is something we really think about (when designing), ”Bose commented.

Building on the concept of minimizing cost penalties, Mahindra’s design chief said he was considering a modular design approach. “For example, we are moving to three- or even four-piece bumpers. So even if there is damage, you are only replacing a certain part, not the entire bumper.

Such an approach would also have a ripple effect on other aspects of car ownership. “Having more children’s parts available will reduce the overall (insurance) cost of claims. And whatever benefits we get from these changes, we tend to pass them on to the customer in terms of the premium reduction. As such, it will also lower the overall cost of owning a vehicle, ”Babu said.




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