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Designing The Future Of Mobility

'We as an industry need to design cars that will best align with the lifestyle choices and preferences of the customer'

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Starting their journey in the late 19th century, cars have become an integral part of human life and civilisation.

Over time, cars have become much more than a mode of transport. Today, they have also come to symbolise status, emotion, and technical prowess. The concept of automotive design too has evolved over time. Once an element of aesthetic differentiation, automotive design is now an exercise that defines the brand statement, the car’s look, ergonomics, safety, and overall compatibility with the consumers’ lifestyles.

While globally, vehicle design is a strategic differentiator to draw customers to a brand, car design in India is still at a somewhat nascent stage. Automobile companies in the country are ramping up their design capabilities to serve evolving market and customer lifestyle trends. Leveraging this trend, most, if not all carmakers, are aiming to redefine customer-centricity by understanding the preferences and lifestyles of consumers at considerable depth.

In order to accomplish this complex task, many automakers are investing their efforts into establishing an extensive, streamlined approach towards researching lifestyle trends and their possible impact on automotive design.

Trend forecasting, as a concept, originates from understanding future and changing customer preferences. What is liked today may not be ‘on trend’ tomorrow. Therefore, we as an industry need to design cars that will best align with the lifestyle choices and preferences of the customer. Several renowned auto giants are actively hiring trend researchers to study the customers’ lifestyle habits on a daily basis. These studies are a mix of observation, as well as conversations. It involves details as basic as what they eat, what they wear, and what they drink, to deeper socio-psychological motivators.

I firmly believe that once the trend researchers have analyzed their inputs and identified some key insights, these must be shared across the different stakeholders in the Company. This process can help carmakers to arrive at important design aspects as well as a deeper strategy for the car and its market launch. These may include features like cup-holders and gesture response, ergonomics, or higher level user centric features. The significance of having each department involved in the initial phases gives the design team a holistic brief of what the end product should look and feel like. Additionally, this rigorous, yet all-encompassing process helps auto designers in maturing their skills and strengthening their design outcomes. This then translates into a deeper customer connect.

Bringing a car to life is no easy task, and requires the coordinated effort of thousands of people in the company and supplier networks. On most occasions, it takes up to five years for a car to move from the design stage to the market. During the course of this, trend researchers and respective companies are constantly bombarded with rapidly evolving consumer aspirations, tastes, and preferences. This must be monitored constantly.

In addition to grasping the real-time nature of consumer preference knowledge, auto designers must also keep an eye out for any change in the company leadership. While such a phenomenon can prove to be incredibly vital to the future growth of the Company, its immediate effect could sometimes cause a slight or complete deviation for an ongoing design project. Collectively, these factors prove to be the biggest challenges in terms of forecasting future trends or sticking to a finite design plan until the commencement of manufacturing.

When done right, trend forecasting enables us carmakers to produce attractive cars and future product line-ups, which help attract the right customers.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Last Word mobility tata motors

Pratap Bose

The author is VP, Global Design, Tata Motors

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