Day: September 1, 2021

Who does what in car design? Our industry insider peels back the studio curtain

Hello there! My name is Adrian Clarke. I am a professional car designer, earning a degree in automotive design from Coventry University and a Masters in Vehicle Design from the Royal College of Art in London. While I was there, one of my tutors was J Mays. (He used to bring in doughnuts.) I worked for several years at a major European OEM before the pandemic knocked the world into a cocked hat. In a previous life, in the Nineties, I daily drove a 1979 Ford Thunderbird while living in London.


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Harley Earl is widely considered to be the father of modern car design. By all accounts a well-lubricated, towering tyrant of a man, he didn’t invent the discipline (early coach builders had a small design staff of artists and fashion designers), but he nonetheless created the first design department at major corporate scale. He also organized and

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Suzuki’s David, the new Swift, and AMG’s Goliath, the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

The modern habit of shielding our delicate eyes from jarring scenes of poverty with the use of anodyne allegorical Nivea cream is noteworthy but not important. Where people are rich, emissions standards and crash safety standards are rigorous, modern and enforced.

In the Global South – sorry – where people are generally poor and live in crappy conditions, automotive products are designed around affordability and automotive regulations that are weak and poorly enforced, if at all.

This means that cars developed for poorer countries are often unsellable in rich countries because they do not meet emissions and crash safety standards.

Usefully for us in South Africa, that global inequality is represented on our own roads. That’s because South Africa is a poor country, rotten with corruption, that happens to have a few super-wealthy enclaves with historical infrastructure that connects them. If

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