Tata Motors is focusing on various aspects of CASE, suitable for Indian consumers and conditions. Also, the Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated higher digitalisation in the modern car design process.
Visualization and conceptualization are the first steps for any car reaching showroom. In between, there are a host of steps like sketching, rendering and transforming it into a 3D digital surface model, creating a clay model, making a concept car, developing a prototype etc. These whole processes involve a large team from different departments. The beginning however is done by the car designers or automotive designers.
So far, car design is the process of developing the appearance and ergonomics of the vehicles. It is primarily concerned with developing the visual appearance or aesthetics of the vehicle and it also involves the creation of product concept.
The name of the car designers or the entire automotive design team is left behind more often. However, some car designers with their exclusively stylish and eye-catching design make it to the headlines.
Tata Motors in the last decade has taken a giant leap in terms of car design. The automaker has come a long way since the Indica to Altroz. Also, Tata Motors has moved from using external design houses to having its own internal car design team. The homegrown auto manufacturer currently has three design studios located in Coventry (UK), Turin (Italy) and Pune (India) bringing the world-class car design capability under the brand.
The most prominent face of the automaker’s design team is Pratap Bose – Vice President, Global Design, Tata Motors, with whom Autofintechs spoke to learn what’s coming from the homegrown carmaker’s design studio and what’s disrupting the modern car design industry.
Edited excerpts below.
Q. Impact 2.0 is based on 3 ‘Ex’ and 3 ‘In’ elements, for exterior and interior styling respectively. What can we expect from Tata Motors’ IMPACT 3.0, which is claimed to have been conceived during the lockdown?
In keeping with our transformation journey, we at Tata Motors introduced the IMPACT design philosophy for our passenger vehicles in 2016. Building on the this, we brought to life the second phase of our design philosophy called IMPACT Design 2.0 in January 2018.
IMPACT Design 2.0 is a sharper, more contemporary expression of the now recognizable Tata Motors’ design language, which captures the immediate attention of the viewer but creates a lasting impact.
The lockdown phase that went by, gave us time to pause and reflect and think in-depth about our future products. Commenting on the future products or their design elements is not something we can speak about now, but we do strongly feel that the customer will want higher levels of design expression in all personal products.
Q. Tata Motors showcased EVision concept at 2018 Geneva Motor Show, one of the most stylish concept cars any Indian automaker has ever showcased. Is there any chance we would see its production version with the same design elements, something that we witnessed with Tata Nexon concept and production model?
The E-Vision was an electric sedan concept, that showcased Tata Motors’ design vision for EVs. With regards to it coming into production, we do not comment on future product plans. Many elements, especially the signature colours and materials have now come onto the Nexon EV and were also showcased on the Altroz EV Concept we showed at the Auto Expo in February.
Q. How are the connected, autonomous and electrification technologies impacting overall car design and at Tata Motors in particular?
We at Tata Motors are focusing on various aspects of CASE that are suitable for Indian consumers and conditions. Safety is, as you know, given the highest priority at Tata Motors, and the design of the cars reflects the inherent strength and ability of each of our products.
The electrification story plays out with the Nexon and Tigor EVs which as of today command 75% market share in the EV segment in India. We continuously look at autonomous technologies but will bring those that are truly relevant to India.
Car design steps:
- Design and consumer research
- Concept development sketching
- CAS (Computer Aided Styling)
- Clay modelling
- Interior buck model
- Vehicle ergonomics
- Class-A surface development
- Colour and trim
- Vehicle graphics
Q. What are the ongoing trends evolving in modern automotive designing?
While there are general design trends that we track, the design of the car must be true to the brand philosophy. In our case a balance between technical and human elements. The effort to have a carbon-neutral footprint will however be a trend that I see coming to the fore in a big way even for mainstream cars. Vegan materials, recyclability, well being etc are driving future design studies.
Q. How artificial intelligence, machine learning and immersive technologies are disrupting the car design process?
The car design process is already highly digital. The pandemic accentuated this further. We deploy VR, generative design, and other digital tools extensively in the design process. This saves time while giving us the flexibility to iterate and ideate more.
The core to the process at Tata Motors is however still the clay modelling phase. So an optimum balance of Digital and Physical tools is the correct approach for us.
Q. How did you end up taking car design as your career choice?
Growing up in India in the 70s and 80s, the awareness of car design was rather low. I had a deep interest in art, painting, and architecture right from my early years in school. The architecture was the closest ‘design’ profession I was aware of, and it was something I wanted to pursue for it’s artistic and technical aspects.
Having said the above, I remember the day when I saw a metallic blue Mercedes 280SEL standing in front of the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba, Bombay, which was near my residence.
For me, that was a very powerful vision which got me thinking. I looked at the building and car. I knew someone designed that building and then I thought that someone must have designed that car as well. This thought picked my interest in design in general. I then went on to study at the National Institute of Design.