Car Design Course
Automotive Design & Marketing Management
Welcome to the third part of the Automotive Marketing and Automotive Design course. In the previous part we saw: What to do to work as a car designer?
In this edition we will see very briefly what are the car design phases, to get an overview. Then we will enter with the first phase: Product Planning. Every design process takes a prior study. Being an independent designer and doing a job based on a client's guidelines is very different from designing for a large brand. There is inevitably a long process to come up with a final design. There is almost nothing written about this, either in English or in Spanish.
PHASES OF CAR DESIGN
What are the phases of car design?
To understand what the car design process is, we will set the following phases:
1 - Product Planning
2 - Styling
3 - Digital phase
4 - Physical phase
5 - Production
6 - Evaluation of the market
Vehicle design is a cycle. As soon as a vehicle is released on the market, the public's response is evaluated to work on the next vehicle that will be launched within a period of three to five years. Also, another team of designers and professionals will work on a restyling to extend the life of the vehicle that is already on the market.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand the full cycle and operation of the automotive industry. First, a market analysis is carried out to obtain certain conclusions that lead to establishing the design criteria for the next vehicle. All trends are also considered, not only market trends but also technological ones.The key is to think that the car will be released to the market within five years. So the car technology must not be outdated. This will result in the product concept, which may be accompanied by some sketches.
The Product Concept's document goes to the styling team, this is also divided into several phases. We will see all of them in detail in their respective posts. Designers do thousands of sketches, on separate teams, until they reach a final sketch. As the initial concept progresses, some considerations such as the possible manufacturing costs of the model, the necessary machinery or the required labor are taken into account.
After a 3d surface modeling is carried out. This 3d design will not be the same with which the engineers work. After this phase, comes the phase of clay modelling. It is the first time that the vehicle can be obtained in full scale. Throughout this process, the modelers will rely on the sketches, tape drawing and on computer aided design. The vehicle's interior is also designed, that concerns a multitude of departments. Once the entire vehicle is clay-modeled, the Color& Trim team takes care of the visual details, such as the choice of textures, fabrics and vehicle colors.
Once the Frozen Model is obtained, that is the final and definitive design, a team of engineers transfer these concepts to the computer. In this stage, two to three years will have passed as a general rule. It begins with the structural design of the vehicle, designing the different frames that make up the self-supporting chassis of the vehicle. Then they will work on the design of the chassis: engine, suspensions, transmission, brakes, etc.
Once all the Cad of the vehicle is obtained and it has been simulated by computer, they go to the physical simulation phase (instead of digital). This is divided into two phases: The first phase is the trial in which the model is assembled and it's verified that all the tolerances are correct. The second physical phase is the testing phase, in which all possible parameters are measured: engine, dynamics, crash tests, aerodynamics, soundproofing, durability ...
After going through many prototypes and tests, everything will be ready to start the production phase. Here comes really important logistical and organizational work. The first step is to design the necessary means for production: dies, molds, fixtures and tools, as well as the production processes and their associated procedures. A production trial is also carried out, in which it is verified that everything has been designed correctly and that there are no last-minute problems when designing the vehicle. During this course, we will see all the car production phases
Once it is in the market, we will study the market acceptance to close the entire cycle. This will allow design studios to begin work on the restylings and the next model.
1 - AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCT PLANNING
Here begins the development of a car that will go into production and will be sold in many countries. The ideas that are conceived in this phase will materialize over the next five years, passing through hundreds of professionals in different locations around the world. This can determine the success or failure of a car brand, so it's a step that, under no circumstances, can be overlooked.
In the first phase, we made a general description that will be in charge of the chief designer. As commented in previous posts a sketching can be made by anyone, the complicated thing is to be able to justify it. Usually, you also have to reach a high enough job position in the company for your criteria to be able to mobilize a large amount of resources, to materialize your idea and put it on the market. This doesn't detract from the importance of having the ability to draw and convey an idea. Sketches are an essential part, but in reality, much more is needed.
This phase begins about five years before the model launch, although this will vary depending on the brand and the project. Throughout the course we will take a five-year durability project as a reference.
The Product Planning is carried out, which is divided into three parts: Automotive market trends, market analysis and the product concept. In reality, the study of market trends is carried out separately.
In the next post we will see the market analysis, and in the next one, the automobile trends from the designer's point of view. Then we will go on to the Styling phase.
1.1 MARKET STUDY
Automotive market study
We study consumer behavior, preferences and interests. In this market study we detect the needs to be covered and the opportunities offered by the market, as well as the existing competition.
This study identifies the target customer, their hobbies, their financial capacity, their lifestyle, the use and interest that this customer has in the car, etc. Interviews are conducted to find out what was the reason for buying the current vehicle, what needs were not being covered and what are the expectations that the customer expects from the next car. In conclusion, it's about obtaining a vision of the potential customer to whom the product is directed.
Competitive strategy and market positioning:
It describes how the brand should position the vehicle within a market and its relationship with the environment. This definition will include all actions aimed at obtaining a competitive advantage over the competition, creating a defensive position and generating a greater return on investment (ROI). The product positioning refers to the place it occupies in the minds of consumers in relation to its competition. An example of positioning would be Volvo regarding safety.
Marketing Mix is a concept and a basic tool of market analysis that helps us to determine the positioning of the vehicle in the market. The marketing mix is made up of the "4P's" of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.
It will help us to define these four variables to be able to place the ideal vehicle, at a competitive price, in the right place and through the optimal promotion channels. These four variables must be answered, in depth, in the marketing mix.
Nowadays, many P’s are added to the Marketing Mix. For example: packaging, people, politics, positioning, perspective, people (employees), processes, participation, prediction or palpability (physical evidence). The classic model includes only the previous 4Ps, from there, each agency will be able to add the variables that they consider necessary.
In the last posts of the course we will close the car design cycle. In these we will see the evaluation of the post-launch market, and some tools that are also used in this phase of the market analysis. Even so, there is a great variety of different marketing tools that will be used according to the requirements of the project. Most of these tools are specific to marketing, and not specifically for the automotive sector. For example, one of them is the SWOT matrix in which we analyze the weaknesses, threats, strengths and opportunities of a product or service. These types of tools are always applied, regardless of the sector. That is why we cannot see all the marketing tools in detail. They are really broad fields that require years of study.
Companies are becoming more important as clients, and not only the individual person. As we will see later, the sales model is changing, and there is an increase of sales of fleets and car-sharing. Therefore, this study also identifies possible business environments and professional associations that may be interested in acquiring the vehicle.
The market analysis is carried out with data obtained from the commercialization of previous vehicles of the brand. As we discussed at the beginning, the car design process is a closed cycle. As soon as the vehicle is launched on the market, it is evaluated and conclusions are obtained that will go to the marketing team so that they can start working on the next concept proposal.
Several years ago the vehicle was considered only in isolation, today it is considered as part of a global system. The target customer is taken into account and the activities carried out during the week are studied to integrate the vehicle into his life.
The consumer has changed the way of relating to the car. Are you going to make the purchase in your car or will you order it online? What weekly use will you give the car? Do you go downtown by car or do you prefer to take the metro? All these doubts and hypotheses will be resolved in this phase to define the vehicle. As we know, not all cities have a subway line, this can be one of the problems that exists today when defining a target customer profile. Since design centers are usually in large cities, cars are designed by people who live in such cities, sometimes a bit cosmopolitan. Therefore, even if a market analysis is done, it will always be influenced by the lifestyle of these employees. So many times, they are too influenced by cosmopolitan environments, or they are designed to just the opposite, for a totally rural environment. But intermediate cities sometimes escape the defined target.
At this stage, the vehicle's product strategy is designed, in which the target market and its value proposition are defined in order to differentiate itself from the competition.
Quality function deployment
Once you have a well-defined target, you work on translating the needs of the target customer into technical design requirements through Quality Function Deployment (QFD). It is a methodology to convey the voice of the customer and create products adapted to their expectations, interconnecting their demands with technical requirements. It is also used to know the importance to be given to each technical requirement, to compare yourself with the competition and to have a clearer idea of what to do, but it does not indicate how to solve it.
In the development of a car, this tool is used in two important moments. First, in the initial phase where the marketing team and design engineers establish what to design, and prioritize the various design requirements.
The other moment is just before production, in which the industrial organization engineers and the Quality Management department will use this tool to help them determine which production processes need to be implemented, and how to control them.
An ideal vehicle is initially developed. Then the design is adjusted to obtain the characteristics that the vehicle will have, which will become the future design requirements.
At this initial point there is a lot of uncertainty, but the conclusions have to be clear and cannot be based solely on theories. There should be no doubts about the basic specifications or expected performance of the model, as this will determine its acceptance in the market. Therefore, the market analysis for the development of vehicles includes a series of actions aimed at translating the needs of potential customers and technological opportunities into technical requirements that will make up an initial proposal for the next model of the brand. This concept right now consists only of data that will materialize while the development process goes through, until the final prototype is reached.
This series of requirements will define, initially, aspects such as production costs, model pricel, specs, type of customers, estimated units and manufacturing requirements to bring the model to market. These figures will vary and will be optimized throughout the design process.
Although not everything will be figures, we will also set the type of handling and driving desired in the vehicle . All of this will lead to the initial Product Concept, and planning for product development can begin. The time needed to carry it out will also have to be estimated.
Designing a restyling of a vehicle is not the same as designing a vehicle with a new platform. Very different resources will be allocated for each vehicle. They will not require the same personnel or the same number of trials, and they will not need the same manufacturing capabilities. Although we cannot predict everything with certainty, we can make an estimate.
For example, in the tests section, it will be necessary to estimate in which areas we have to dedicate a greater amount of resources. For example, if the vehicle offers as a novelty a highly worked body at the aerodynamic level, it will be necessary to estimate a greater number of hours in the wind tunnel.If it is a utility vehicle that deploys a wide variety of connectivity and infotainment functions, a greater number of tests will be carried out in the area of electronics and telecommunications.Both possibilities will involve different staff and the use of different brand facilities during different periods, which translates into a variety of costs.For example, suppose that you are designing a car with a focus on habitability, you will have to have a greater number of specialists in ergonomics, and possibly hire outside companies.All this will be reflected in the first approach to the product, to get a rough idea of the cost structure. Furthermore, it will be necessary to study if these tests are interrelated, or can be tested in parallel, or should be executed in sequence one after the other.
As we talked last week, this course wouldn't be possible without the great professionals who are supporting the course and bring us their vision and experience. Last week we had the testimony of Chema Terol, president and CEO of Mazda Automobiles Spain.
This week, we have the testimony of José María Galilré, CEO of Volvo Spain. From DrivingYourdream we appreciate his valuable time.
As students, obviously, we have to listen and learn from all people, but when a person who has reached such a high level of success reserves a slot in his busy agenda to advise us, I think we should take advantage of such an opportunity and learn as much as possible from his words.
Take advantage of this advantage. This will give you incredible tools to guide and justify your designs.
José María Galofré, CEO of Volvo Spain - Original text in Spanish, translated into English
How do you think the areas of vehicle design and vehicle marketing and distribution are related?
According to data from the NCBS (New Car Buyer Survey), design and brand are the first two purchase decision factors followed by different attributes, which vary depending on the brand. In Volvo's case, it's safety, connectivity and the environment.
All the attributes, starting with the design, wouldn't serve as a value for the client if we don't guarantee the correct commercialization. That is why we need the client to know the product and that is affordable.
Since once the customer is attracted to the design of our models, their shopping experience begins. We need the distribution to guarantee the best process and the best customer experience, so that the vehicle's design is in a showroom, and that its design also reinforces the product and the brand. All that customer's experience will help the purchase of the product. Finally, the sales team must guarantee a process where the virtues of design are highlighted and the different options for the acquisition or use of the product are informed.
Therefore the product design will be related to the design of its promotion & communication plans, and also to the design of the places (exhibitions), where the product is displayed. All of this customer experience will help their future purchase.
- What design elements do you think design students should include to adapt to new trends? Which ones should they exclude?
I believe that students should be part of the change, they should recognize trends as their own. In this way when they design they are trying to create what avant-garde society needs.
Sight is the most developed sense we have, so the first visual impact is key to consider the design attractive, and once it has caught our attention we must make sure that it follows the trends of the avant-garde world from which we want to be part of.
Students must exclude cultural complexes and prejudices so that their mind and senses are free to create a new life, each of us will write about the future if we have confidence in ourselves, so students should feel the confidence to create the future.
- Finally, any advice to students interested in the automotive sector?
This advice would be useful for any sector, to make work a vocation and an enjoyment, so that every day we will give the best of each one.
Every day you have to build with the love of learning and giving the best of yourself, doing all the best we can, above all .... even if no one is looking at us !!
Undoubtedly the automotive industry is one of the most exciting sectors in the industry and one of the products that has helped the most to change the world. In our human DNA is traveling and knowing new places and the automobile has achieved a special freedom of movement. It has never been so easy for us to move around the world and that is why at Volvo we no longer talk about manufacturing cars but about guaranteeing the best mobility for our customers, which is also safe and sustainable.
With this awesome advice we end the third post. In the next post we will see the technological and market trends. It may seem less design related, but keep in mind that a car is designed for the future, three to five years. Therefore, it's key to know the trends. They will be two posts in a row on trends, both in the market and in car styling. Then we will enter with the design language and the styling itself.
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