Talking to designers is always a treat for me. You get insights that are rarely highlighted in press releases. That’s why I spoke with Daniel Darancou, the designer of the Qiantu K50, about his motivation and global market challenges.
Nicolas Zart (NZ): What got you started in the automotive design world?
Daniel Darancou (DD): My background is actually in bicycling. My father owned a Schwinn bicycle dealership in Los Angeles where I’m from. My uncles raced bicycles professionally and you could say that I have been on wheels all of my life. I became one of the top builders of racing bicycle motocross (BMX) and a rider for many years.
Having taken art and design courses in college led me to enroll at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Upon graduation, I was hired directly to join I.DE.A Institute in Turin, Italy, as a junior designer to design with the masters of car design on Fiat and Lancia’s.
NZ: Can you give us the challenges and benefits for modern designers as it relates to EVs and AVs?
DD: Every vehicle is a challenge! There is so much risk and investment in the development of a vehicle, it’s sometime overwhelming. With electric vehicles, hybrids and AV’s the current challenge is to design a beautiful and elegant piece of technology that transcends it’s source of propulsion. Customer’s are concerned about frequent charging cycles and insecurity of range. The last thing they want is a quirky and strange vehicle.
Early EV’s tended to be too different and tried too hard to communicate their new place in the world. The reason Tesla was so successful is the Model S is a very handsome vehicle. The cooling requirements are unique to an EV so the grille is now open for some new design executions. This is a work in progress for all brands.
NZ: Can you tell us anything about how China and more broadly Asia is helping define a new design language, if it is? Until now it seems design was mostly Italy and the rest of the Western world.
DD: As China and as Chinese car brands mature and evolve, there will be a natural selection process that will build larger companies made up of the smaller brands as it happened in Europe, Japan and the USA. These larger companies will and are creating a brand message and marketing sophistication that will allow for global export opportunities. Design will be the most important component of this trend.
Having been here in China for over 8 years has provided me a great vantage point to witness the development and evolution of the Chinese brands. The key feeling or key characteristic of Chinese design DNA is referred to as “ The C Factor.” There is an emerging tide of surface and graphic treatments and proportions that are showing the way towards this look.
This is more accelerated on Chinese electric vehicles due to the new start-up companies wanting to stand out. The speed of this development is quite remarkable considering how long the established countries and brands have been evolving and perfecting their brand DNA.
Globally, there was clear supremacy of certain brands and regions. Performance, quality, safety, and fit and finish. What has happened is the equalization of everything. In each segment and price range, there is very little measurable advantage. This is due to the competitive nature of the industry, standards and the use of global supplier OEM’s.
This has compelled vehicle manufacturers to spend more on design and marketing initiatives. Of course, whatever each company feels they have a lead or mastery in. They will strive to keep that advantage. At last, the majority of customers have a minimal appreciation for these attributes and the investments those advantages cost the OEM.
One interesting trend is the new types of ownership and or mobility choices. If you are an Uber driver, then how does your purchase reflect your end use! I believe vehicles will diverge into two categories. No. 1 will be private ownership, which will create a market for very desirable personalized vehicle and No. 2 Shared or lease type public use vehicles which will be more durable and utilitarian in materials and comfort. Let’s see.
NZ: Lastly, what is your first thought of the day when you get up, what is your first motivation of the day?
DD: I have the unenviable burden of a one and a half hour one way trip to my design studio. Sometimes, I tune out and think about design solutions on our numerous projects. But, what I mostly do is analyze the hundreds maybe thousands of cars, trucks, motorcycles and assorted busses that I am in traffic with.
Here in China there is every imaginable brand all mixed up together. French, American, Korean, Japanese and many many Chinese brands that defy identification. I study surfaces, details, and how people actually use and personalize their vehicles. I’ve become an automobile anthropologist!
China is a huge laboratory of goods and services that is rich and diverse and sometimes crazy. I love, hate, laugh, cry, and scream … all on the same day!
Thank you, Daniel, for these insights on the industry in China, its design challenges, and how excited we are to see the K50 up close soon.
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