Colourful and bold: car design tailor-fitted for India

Colourful and bold: car design tailor-fitted for India

INNOVATION

Indians are more likely to buy cars in lower segments than drivers in Europe, but on the other hand they are demanding, especially when it comes to technology, design and interior fittings. Bringing these demands and wishes into reality is now going to be one of the jobs of the ŠKODA DESIGN India studio, headed by Caroline Liehr.

6. 8. 2020

The design studio based in the Indian city of Pune and headed by Caroline Liehr from the Colour & Trim department will now try hard to adjust the ŠKODA design language to the needs of the Indian market. The striking ŠKODA VISION IN, which was unveiled at the start of February, gives the first insight into the direction the Czech carmaker is heading.

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“It’s not that the local customers’ taste is so dramatically different, but rather the conditions on the Indian market are different from what we know. But yes, Indian customers are a bit bolder,” explains Caroline Liehr on board of the VISION IN concept car. The VISION IN concept teased some details we can expect to find on the mass-produced SUV for the Indian market. Even from a distance, your attention is grabbed by the car’s bright orange colour. Strong, warm tones are also to be found in the interior.

Orange is a very important and attractive colour for India,” says Caroline Liehr and explains that the orange colour plays a big role in the Indian spiritual life. Famous Hindu god Krishna is usually depicted in orange clothes and also Buddhist monks or holy men in general are dressed in orange clothes. Orange is known to be the colour of the highest enlightenment of the mind.

Škoda Auto, Design, IndiaCaroline Liehr with Norbert Weber, Head of Interior Design, HMI and Color&Trim

Another colour fun fact: black cars are not nearly as popular as they are in Europe. Indian people prefer the white exterior colour, incidentally the best selling car colour, and not only because of the hot climate. “Black stands for the absence of light and for death, just like in Europe – yet the traditional mourning colour in India is white,” says the designer.

Close cooperation with suppliers

The first task for Caroline and her team in India will be to finalise the details before the new SUV for the Indian market goes into the production. “We have local suppliers for practically all the materials we’ve developed and want to use in the car,” says Caroline and is satisfied that all suppliers have met high quality standards. “We want to be as efficient as possible, so being close to them is a huge advantage. In this way we can work more closely with suppliers to find clever solutions,” Caroline says.

The new head of the Pune design centre will be assisted by several other people with deep knowledge of the Indian market and customers’needs. Also local talents will have their place in the studio. Needless to say, the design studio will continue to work closely with ŠKODA units at home in the Czech Republic. “In India, I am basically the connecting link and representative of the European parent company’s design department,” Caroline says, smiling as she describes her role.

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Cars are for both fun and status

One outcome of her work should be more smiles on the faces of ŠKODA’s Indian customers. “Our presence in India should bring local customers increased value and a product better-designed to local needs. ŠKODA is already seen in India as a strong European brand with a high-quality design. Thanks to us, our customers will now get a slightly more Indian version of the ŠKODA cars they already love,” Caroline says.

ŠKODA cars have become popular in India thanks to their design and attractive details as well as their practicality and safety. In practical terms, the design department has to deal with some details that Europeans just would not expect. The air-conditioning in Indian cars is very important, for example.

“The air-conditioning outlets are an important subject – they have to look strong and functional,” says Caroline, adding that cars’ air-conditioning units run pretty much at full power all the time in the Indian heat. “For me, it’s too cold in the car. I turn the air-con off, but Indians like it that way,” designer laughs.

Škoda Auto, Design, IndiaCaroline Liehr with Head of Interior Design Norbert Weber and Kateřina Vránová, Color & Trim coordinator at ŠKODA Design

Another specific point is the use of leather. You would have thought that leather would be forbidden on the local market, given that cows are sacred. But that’s not the case. “The leather must not come from Indian cows. But here too, leather is seen as a luxury item and customers like it,” the designer explains a surprising detail in the high segment cars.

Inspiration and knowledge transfer for Europe

Indian customers are clearly a bit bolder with respect to design than their European counterparts, but the fundamental qualities, from practicality and safety to the perception of luxury, remain the same. Consequently, the work of the Indian design studio could also benefit ŠKODA in its home environment. Notably, the VISION IN study also aroused a lot of attention on markets it’s not intended for.

“The reaction told us that European customers can also be a bit bolder and might buy a more colourful car with patterns in the interior, a kind of more exotic version,” the colourfully dressed designer says. “When my mission in India is over, I will bring what I’ve learned back to Europe and try to apply it in practice,” she says, adding that the exchange of experience and approaches will, of course, be an aspect of her work in Pune. And one more topic she would like to devote her time to: “In future, I’d also like to focus on greater use of recycled materials which is also becoming more popular in India,” says the new head of ŠKODA DESIGN India.

Caroline Liehr

At the age of 32, the German Colour & Trim specialist will run the ŠKODA design studio in India. She has been working for the Czech carmaker’s design department since 2018. Prior to that, she gained experience working for Volkswagen and other car companies. At ŠKODA, her work on Indian projects began partly by chance, but also because she spent two months in India on a study placement.

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