When it comes to automotive designs, European carmakers like Mercedes-Benz tend to have longer life cycles in between model changes, sometimes spanning up to eight years and maybe even longer, compared to Japanese and Korean brands which have shorter life cycles. So designing a vehicle with such longevity is very critical, specially with its exterior. This was how Winifredo “Wini” Camacho, Mercedes-Benz’s Filipino exterior designer summed it up. Camacho, who recently visited Manila as a guest speaker with First Pacific Group and his alma mater the University of Santo Tomas (UST) also met up with some members of the motoring media at the Mercedes-Benz showroom in CATS Motors Greenhills, EDSA.
Camacho designed the concepts for the future subcompact G-Code and the Concept X-Class, which made a splash in major auto shows a couple of years ago. While a lot of his designs went into sedans, he noted that the design language of sedans has been successfully reinterpreted for the brand’s SUV models.
Whether intentionally or not, Japanese designers tend to use shapes that are quite attractive and radical, but radical designs do not tend to age so well, adding to the obsolescence of the model and hence the urgency to change cars more quickly than its European counterparts. Wini and his team tend to favor classic shapes and silhouettes and give them a certain twist to make them look fresh and attractive. “There’s a sensual purity about EVs because the power plant goes to the four wheels and you can do a lot on design but it’s also a big challenge. While hybrid cars are much the same as conventional ones. Tesla was afraid to push the design too far but you will notice the low bonnet since no engine and high roof in their models,” said Camacho.
His personal insights in the state of automobile design come at a time where there imminent upheaval and disruption within the industry. He talked about the relevance of certain features like the hood and trunk of the car of future will radically change with the onset of electric vehicles since the powertrain will no longer be located in front of the hood but in the four corners of the wheel well.
In looking at the design of a car, one cannot help but check out its coefficient of drag, an indication of how easily the car can slice through the air. This is a decisive factor in ensuring fuel efficiency, road noise and high speed stability. A car doesn’t just have to look good, but it has to be aerodynamic as well. He said Mercedes-Benz’s latest models are designed to have multiple aerodynamic aids, such as lighting units that extend into the bodywork, and shrouds flanking the backlight to direct air properly. This was the case of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA model, with a coefficient of drag of 0.28, considered one of the class-leading figures that can even rival current model sedans. Mercedes-Benz PH unveiled the GLA model at the Greenbelt last Friday and is the brand’s foray into the compact luxury SUV market.