In conversation with Peter Schreyer, chief design officer at Kia Motors

Team OD Published: October 06, 2017, 07:01 PM IST

Peter Schreyer, chief design officer at Kia Motors, speaks about the design language of the brand and how it differs from sister company Hyundai. How it differs from sister company Hyundai

Q) How do you design the products - the process?
A) Every car that I do, I focus on making it recognisable as a Kia. Secondly, I do it in a way that I'd also feel like driving it. I only make cars that I'd like to see myself in and feel proud about it. The Indian market has a lot of cost restrictions but still I want to make something that people recognise.

Q) What is the difference in design philosophy between Hyundai and Kia?
A) We try to differentiate the two companies on the basis of brand character. For me, its always important to look at the big picture. Hyundai as a brand is more like a charismatic leader.
Kia, on the other hand is a bit more vibrant and classy, if you want to say so. Hyundai also has more of a sensuous form that's close to nature, like a drop of water. This is Hyundai's design manifesto. Kia is more textured, like crystals. It's very much like an architectural object. So, though Hyundai and Kia may follow the same principle, they are different. Kia is more about clean, straight lines, whereas Hyundai is more sensuous.

Q) Is there a difference in design aesthetic in Europe, Asia or different parts of the world?
A) In a way, yes. In Europe , there is this tradition. There's more than 100 years of car culture. On the other hand we have other forms of design like Italian, German or Scandinavian design. Asian mentality is different and is very innovative. They want something new every time. Sometimes it gets difficult to convince them of the idea. I think sometimes it becomes important for the brand to ensure that the customer understands the character of the brand and also it creates a trust, this way. By now, while designing the next Kia, I roughly know what to expect. A car should have its own identity and character, I think this is very important

Q) Kia has a history of building sedans, SUVs or compact cars for the family audience. The Stinger is a completely new direction for Kia. Tell us more about it, the change and transformation
A) The Stinger is like a flagship, in a sporty and an emotional way. At Kia we do have emotional products. Yes we do have various SUVs and sedans, but if you look at the Sportage or the Optima, these are cars with feeling and character. They are emotional. Sportage is a sporty SUV and now at the upper end of the scale, we have the Stinger, showing the capability of Kia. We were very happy with the way the concept car came through and the production car is very, very close. And we will strive to make it as close as possible.

Q) The Stinger shows new design direction. What kind of challenges do you face in satisfying the design philosophies of family brands?
A) This is a challenge and in a way also the funny bit. If you look at some of the products, even if they are on the same platform, the parts such as the doors, the exterior and the interior there's no common part, from a design point of view. I think it still allows us some freedom to make different products.

Q) What do you think are Indians looking for, for a design standpoint
A) An SUV. That's what an important product is for India!

Q) Will Kia work on models that are tailor-made for India?
A) We are looking at models that are developed with the Indian background in mind. I think it is an exciting new challenge for me as well. I'd like go back to India and understand how people in India live, what are their habits and what do they expect. I asked a guy what's his dream car and he said an SUV. Of course we need to look into it.

Q) How do you balance a customer's desire today versus a desire tomorrow?
A) It is the fantasy and the creativity of the designers that gives them the ability to think ahead.. Because in a focus group, or whatever, we can only find out what customers like today., but they won't be able to tell you about tomorrow. That's impossible.

Q) Given how much is changing in the world today, is this the most difficult time to be a designer?
A) No, I don't think so. Yes, the automobile industry is undergoing big change at the moment, but I'm of the opinion that still, we will see differentiation among cars. We can have cars that are for two, four or seven people. We can have cars that are more rugged, or practical or even emotional. Some cars could be simpler, or cheaper or more luxurious. There is still a variety of possibilities. I think its important to give customers a chance at freedom of choice by making products that look different.

Q) Do you spend a lot of time looking into the distant future or the next few generations?
A) Well basically, we do both. It is interesting. There was never before a time when there was so much change and innovation. Its like a revolution that's going on, and it's very interesting