Design, it is often argued, is the biggest purchase decision for car buyers in India. If today’s Tata cars look so futuristic, the credit goes to Pratap Bose and his team, who conceptualise and create cars that match the sleek and smart features that modern gadgets dictate. His latest creation is the Altroz, the premium hatchback, which will be launched in January 2020. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, Bose, the vice-president of Global Design at Tata Motors, shares the design inspiration behind the Altroz, and argues that the production version of any car must not be too different from the concept version. Excerpts:
The Altroz is developed on the new ALFA (agile, light, flexible, advanced) architecture. Was it a challenge for the design team?
In the automotive world, architecture usually lasts 15 years, or two product cycles. So, when you start designing, you have to think 15 years in advance. The ALFA will serve us till 2030-35, so the design we employ today has to be relevant that far into the future. We also have to think beyond the car; we have to think manufacturing process, supply chain, parts and so on. It’s definitely a challenge, but at Tata Motors the advantage is that the design team was involved with engineering and other teams since the very beginning when the architecture was being laid out.
Why do the Harrier, the Nexon and now the Altroz look so similar to the concept versions of these respective cars?
A concept is like a trailer to a film. If the film doesn’t match what was shown in the trailer, viewers will be disappointed. Similarly, if the production version of a car doesn’t match the concept, there might be problems of rejection in the market. You will find very few auto companies who will show a concept car image and the production car image in the same presentation, on the same slide, because they perhaps want the people to forget the concept and talk about the production car. That’s not the case with Tata Motors.
But what goes into retaining the concept shape?
From the very beginning, we keep in mind the image of the concept. It can be difficult, because it’s roughly a four-year journey from a concept car to a production car. We keep showing ourselves the picture of the concept and go back and forth across the design development cycle.
What was the design inspiration behind the Altroz?
We were inspired by laser sculpting technology, 3D printing. Moreover, we track multiple design and non-design trends. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Between the front fender and the A-pillar of the Altroz, there is a design line that goes down and kicks up. The BMW i3 has a similar design line… Dynamic design lines on a car make it look as if it’s in motion even when parked; they give a car an athletic persona. In the Altroz, this line also ensures certain changes to the body that help you see a lot more of a corner, improving visibility from inside the cabin. As far as the example you mentioned, there is a lot of good design around us. I believe Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Volvo are at the cutting edge of design … there are elements of our cars also that we see in other cars.
Why is design thinking important?
Picture yourself booking a flight on a website. You will tend to go to a particular website even though the other does the same thing, i.e. book a flight for you. Why? Because your preferred website has something the other doesn’t have: maybe better navigation or better colours. That’s design thinking, i.e. design will attract and retain user interest. It’s important, and can be employed just about anywhere. I believe the education of design thinking must start early, maybe as a subject or a module in schools.