Driven By Passion Volvo's Southern California Designers Create Modern Masterpieces at VMCC
November 14, 2007 (Camarillo, CA) - Before the computer age, Volvo's automotive stylists used basic tools - including paper, paint, wood and clay - to bring their ideas to life. Yet transferring a truly great design from the mind into a three-dimensional object is a skill that takes years to master. For example, when asked how he managed to make his remarkable statues, 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin said, "I choose a block of marble and cut off whatever I don't need." Thus a simple bag of modeling clay contained a Volvo of the future. All the designer had to do was create a wooden buck, apply the clay and then begin the arduous process of slowly removing it to get the proportions just right.
For the past 20 years, there's been no substitute for experience at the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center (VMCC) in Camarillo, California. According to Geza Loczi, Director of Design, retaining the spirit of design is the predominant challenge when it comes to the interplay between conceptualization and the final production of any new model automobile.
Loczi has made a lasting impression at VMCC with his legendary enthusiasm and passion for automotive style. "It's part of my challenge to instill a sense of directional energy to our team of creative rebels and to encourage their instincts and personal sense of design," said Loczi. "We as a group influence up to 80 percent of the new model process before handing over a final design to the production system. That translates into an immense energy and talent drain. So teamwork and encouragement are essential parts of my job."
Knowing the difference between a car that looks good as a clay model and one that turns heads and creates dealership sales is his forte. So is selecting the ideal setting for practicing his craft. "Volvo knew 20 years ago that California was the place to be when it sought to design a new breed of vehicles for a new Volvo customer," said Loczi. "What happens everyday in California continues to influence me and our team of structural design and creative stylists. My office might be in Camarillo - but my landscape is the California lifestyle and its energy highway."
The inspirations drawn from trend-spotting and an awareness of sociological and lifestyle patterns leads to a design concept that according to Loczi must be influenced by feasibility. "Even though we are designing for decades ahead, we must be governed by platform and other mechanical realities," said Loczi. "It does little good to draw an amazing vehicle that would be too costly to build or impossible to manufacture. So, in a sense we are imagining and designing with an eye on what we expect will be a realistic future production environment."
Loczi and the VMCC team of engineers, scientists, sociologists, modelers and designers have proven their ability to meet that challenge. They know that passion drives decision making; but logic, business realities, customer data and other predictable events will shape the success of any vehicle. "In 1992 we conceived the Environmental Concept Car that matured into what is known today as the S80 and S60 range," said Loczi. "In 1998 we previewed the Desiree hybrid, well before other makes considered the values of hybrid or bi-fuel technologies. These advanced vehicles foresaw a driving future where the consumer would begin to extend their personal concern for safety with an equal concern for the protection of our natural environment and other road users."
VMCC seeks a holistic approach to new vehicle design that goes well beyond the swoop of a fender. Good design - Volvo design - incorporates passion as stylists conceive ideas with anticipated materials and production technologies in mind. VMCC's work is rooted in common sense business heavily influenced by creative emotion. This results in forward-looking vehicles that are responsible when it comes to safety and the environment while satisfying the owner in terms of comfort, drivability and above all, emotional appeal.
"You can see a difference here from anywhere else on the planet," said Loczi. "Californians use their vehicles as a palette for self-expression and much more than basic transportation. This energy is a major influence on our design team and forces us to be in step with those trends influencing buyers around the globe. It's a very cool experience, that's why I've loved every day of my job and still can't wait to get here each day."
Just as car design changes with the times, automotive designers must stay current with the latest technologies to stay ahead of the game. While sketches and clay modeling are still important, today's designers must be equally adept at using computer-aided design and sophisticated modeling software to help speed up the process. In today's fast-paced, highly competitive automotive industry time is a precious commodity in the development process.
The C70, the first Volvo convertible with a foldable hardtop is also a VMCC design. The sleek lines, harmonious and beautiful design forms a very attractive car, so desirable that there was a waiting list of more than a year when it was launched. Yet, measured against these successes, it's the all-new Volvo C30 that perhaps serves as the most comprehensive response to the question: Why was Volvo right to consider a West Coast lab almost a quarter century ago?
With the C30 - Volvo's most youthfully targeted model in decades - VMCC knew that beautiful design would convey the company's passion to be different but loyal to its core safety values. "This car emulates the contemporary Volvo passion to seamlessly merge functionality, safety, comfort and value with timeless design and impressive road presence," said Loczi. "This new Volvo is a world car, inspired by California's automotive and lifestyle energy."
Looking decades into the future, one can only imagine what Loczi and his team is working on now. Yet one thing is certain: no matter how sophisticated the process becomes - from virtual reality goggles to holographic projectors - there's still no replacement for the talent, creativity and experience of a passionate artist.
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