Audi A1 designer on how he's shaped Zeekr

Stefan Sielaff has been one of the most prominent car designers of the past few decades, working mainly for the Volkswagen Group leading the design of Bentley and Audi among numerous other roles.

In September 2021, he succeeded Peter Horbury as Geely’s global design boss, overseeing all of the Chinese brand’s marques. His arrival coincided with the launch of Zeekr, a new electric car brand with global aspirations. We caught up with Sielaff at the recent Beijing motor show to talk Zeekr, and the different way that Chinese cars are designed and created.

How do you create a new brand like Zeekr from scratch?

In the beginning, you define the brand, the brand philosophy, the corporate identity, the birthmark, the visual identity. This is all originating in the design department and is very, very important. Then the products and the brand statement are connected with each other, which is a very Western way of thinking. But I have the feeling that the Chinese OEMs are starting to understand this [brands] very well and put a lot of focus on this.

How does Zeekr differ from other Geely-backed brands Lynk&Co and Polestar?

The positioning is higher than Lynk&Co but not necessarily higher than Polestar. Nevertheless, I think Zeekr is going to be more luxurious than Polestar. Polestar is very specific, almost dogmatic in a positive way, but delivering fantastic and homogeneous products. Zeekr has something that Chinese customers appreciate quite a lot, products not always looking like coming out of one mould, which we Europeans like. I always describe the design philosophy that we do certain chapters and then we mutate again. 

Why are so many new brands popping up?

It is to do with electric cars. It’s a phenomenon that we say 100 years ago, when new producers popped up all over the world but of course not everybody survived. Only the fittest survive when it’s like this and that’s the case in the Chinese industry as well. There are new brands popping up and some will be successful and survive and succeed, some others will fail.

Are you designing a western car to take to China or a Chinese car to take to the west?

We are definitely doing a global product. We have 33 nationalities in the design department, which automatically generates a global attitude. Of course our focus is on China, but we are not doing a Chinese car. We do it as a global design and product. This is not so dramatic, because we observe a lot of expectations of Chinese customers that are not so different to the rest of the world.

What factor does speed play in the development of Chinese cars?

It’s not only the speed of design, it’s the speed of the whole development process. The Zeekr 007 was developed in two years from the first sketch to the finished product. We have everything in the design studio in Gothenburg to build analogue models but even more important is the software and virtual reality technology we have. Minute by minute we can send data to engineers for a simultaneous exchange and we do VR presentations every week where our CEO can be in China. We can walk around models with VR, and see each other as avatars.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top