Last week, Hyundai unveiled the Vision G Coupe Concept.
One thing that is important to note is the venue where the car was revealed: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Yes, one of the things that happen in museums is that companies—whether they’re in the car business or the computer industry or somewhere in between—rent out space for events. So there is that real estate aspect to the transaction.
But realize that a company will select a particular venue because, in large part, it resonates with what the company is trying to say about itself or about what it is showing to the public.
So the site of the Vision G reveal:
“Since its inception in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, in addition to representing Los Angeles's uniquely diverse population. Today LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection that includes over 120,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present, encompassing the geographic world and nearly the entire history of art.”
Yes, Hyundai Motor America is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California, so heading over to 5905 Wilshire Boulevard has something of a convenience factor (although those of us who live elsewhere would find the commute to be agonizingly and absurdly long).
But were they to want to send a different kind of message about what they’re trying to accomplish with the Vision G, they could have setup a tent at the next-door La Brea Tar Pits.
But the Vision G is not just about being a car. It is about sculpture. Contemporary. Stylish. Engaging. Appealing.
At least for some.
Let’s face it: when it comes to sculptural executions, nothing appeals to everyone. Nor should it.
Chris Chapman, head of Hyundai’s U.S. design operations and the man who headed up the team that designed the Vision G, made an interesting comment about what they’re trying to achieve with the exterior. He said, “In keeping with a design that speaks to the owner rather than ‘the spectators’ who might see the car on the road, Vision G appears dynamic and in constant motion.
“After all—and if all is right in the world—the only time an owner sees the exterior of the car is when it’s standing still.”
Or said another way: the car is designed such that it has a dynamic form when static. Which is no small feat.
Can a car be art?
According to the National Climactic Data Center, the average temperature in Florida in 2013 (the latest year with stats) was 71.6 degrees F.
So it makes all the sense in the world that when Ford wants to do some extreme cold-weather testing during the summer months, it goes to northwest Florida, where August is characterized by the sort of humidity that makes you want to take serial showers.
Well, it turns out that the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, which is in the Florida panhandle, can have one of those signs that used to adorn movie theaters: “It’s Cool Inside.”
Because the lab, which the U.S. Air Force uses to test aircraft under all manner of conditions, allows seriously cold temperatures to be achieved in comparatively short order.
And Ford engineers take advantage of that for product development.
Given that the lab is sized for aircraft—an entire C-5 M Super Galaxy was accommodated for temperature testing--, cars and trucks are readily accommodated within the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, which is said to be the world’s largest climatic test facility.
Ford takes down 75 prototype vehicles and a crew of 54 engineers and technicians when the temperatures at places like Prudhoe Bay and Yellowknife are simply too warm, places where within a few months it will get very, very cold.
The temperature within the lab can go down to minus 40-degrees F within just 10 hours. One of the tests they run is to cycle the temperature from plus 40 to minus 40 for weeks on end while an engine is operating.
The engineers look at multiple aspects of the effects of the temperature on vehicles, from the fuel to the components.
One recent consequence was to swap out the metallic spark plugs used in the 6.7-liter F-Series Super Duty engines with ceramic gold plugs. The ceramic plugs facilitate a faster start, which is certainly helpful when 71.6 degrees is but a dream.
Let’s face it: When it comes to vehicular engineering of all types, automotive engineers pretty much have a handle on it.
So it is not entirely surprising to discover that BMW of North America is developing a racing wheelchair for the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
BMW’s Designworks, its Newbury Park, California-based design consultancy, is working with members of the team to determine what the athletes need.
So far they’ve determined that the chassis will be completely redesigned. They’ll be using carbon fiber composites to produce the wheelchair—and presumably the i3 and i8 experience with the material will be helpful. They’ll be making the wheelchair more aerodynamic, enhance the athlete restraint (as with autos, safety is critical), and improve both the steering and braking systems.
BMW of North America is the Official Mobility Partner of the U.S. Olympic committed, and it has worked with Team USA on other vehicles, like a two-man bobsled for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which helped achieve a Bronze Medal, the first time in 62 years Team USA medaled in that sport.
Here’s hoping the racing wheelchair will help the U.S. paralypians get the Gold in Rio.
Last week at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefings Seminars, Jeevak Badve, vice president, Strategic Growth, Sundberg-Ferar, a design and development firm that’s been around since 1934, so it must be doing something right, made a presentation during a session titled: “The Car of Tomorrow: Design and Technology.” The panel was moderated by John Waraniak, vp of Vehicle Technology at the Specialty Equipment Market Association, one of the industry’s most positive and provocative figures (e.g., “You can’t fake true cool,” he told the assembled auto people, pointing out that authenticity matters more than ever, particularly if one is interested in maintaining relevance to the emerging younger market).
Anyway, Badve, in a machine-gun fast delivery, spoke of the ways and means to develop products that have a real reason for being (one of the Sunberg-Ferar slogans is “No More Porridge,” not because they have anything against breakfast, but they do have something against bland), the methodology that they use at their firm to create products that are not merely different, but potentially profitable.
And one of the points he made is this:
“If we want to design a tent, we'll benchmark tents, but we’ll also benchmark the camping experience.”
Badve explained that while many companies concentrate on the object, the use and the environment cannot be overlooked. By looking at what something is supposed to do and the time and place that it will do it, the design solution might be entirely different than you otherwise might think.
Badve also recommended: “Stop trying to be all things to all people. Start by being something to someone.”
This week is known as “Monterey Auto Week” for those who are automotive aficionados, particularly if they are well-heeled ones. That’s because the northern California area will be full of all manner of vintage, prestigious cars.
Naturally, Bentley is in the mix.
What’s interesting about Bentley in this regard is not that it is going to have the 2016 Continental GT (a new front and rear fascia; new interior tailoring; a new tuning for its 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine so that it now has 567 hp and 531 lb-ft), but as this is its 85th anniversary, it is going to be showing, in the Quail Rally, a 1930 Blower Bentley.
It is interesting to compare the design of that vehicle:
with a current design, the Continental GT Convertible:
Without taking anything away from the new car, the Blower Bentley has a certain panache that the new one lacks.