As the interior becomes more important, cars need to welcome occupants with a pleasant exterior.
Fans of the Ingolstadt-based Audi brand will have to say goodbye to aggressively-styled cars, with design boss Marc Lichte telling Top Gear that future vehicles will be "softer [and] more friendly."
The company, known for designing menacing vehicles like the Audi RS7, will do a complete 180-degree turn when it comes to exterior styling. According to Lichte, interior design will soon become the priority, especially as we head into the autonomous era.
Ford's Anthony Lo has shared similar sentiments. The Blue Oval's chief designer said the cabin is becoming more important. "The design process is turning upside down," he said.
Lichte used the Audi activesphere concept as an example of the future. "I think it's a good example ... I think this car I would say is not aggressive, it's the opposite. It's very soft, very friendly, very… there's no edge on the exterior design."
A friendly, more approachable look may not evoke themes of athleticism or sportiness, but it could serve another purpose. A welcoming exterior could entice individuals to spend time in the cabin and enjoy what will be the future highlight of Audi vehicles.
"I see, in general, car design will become more friendly. At Audi definitely. But I see this as a trend in general. Softer, more friendly, less aggressive," added Lichte. Vehicle design has become more aggressive and brash in the last twenty years, with an emphasis on bold styling elements and angry front fascias. So, what has prompted the change at Audi?
Interestingly, the ongoing war in Ukraine is one of the reasons. "One reason is there is a war not far away from here, which has an impact on everybody. It's one reason, I can imagine."
In the wake of all the sadness and misery, perhaps a fresher and lighter outlook is what people need.
The second reason is far more practical, with Lichte noting that the advent of electric vehicles has given designers an entirely new canvas to work with. "In the past, there was always a combustion engine, and then there was a platform. Everything was fixed." This means designers can go wild in a sense, and style vehicles in a way we've never seen before.
While many EVs adopt a mainstream look, cars like the since-discontinued BMW i3 and the striking Cadillac Celestiq represent this idea and buck the design trend.
"I don't like this aggressive styling, honestly speaking. There are so many more opportunities. That's why designers in general are not focusing on this aggressive design. That's my interpretation," concluded Lichte.
Audi has said it will no longer develop ICE-powered engines after 2026, and will stop selling them by 2033. That means we can soon expect models to debut with a friendlier styling theme. The automaker has always gone for a minimalist interior design, leading us to wonder whether Audi cabins will become more extroverted as their exteriors become softer.
As for when this new look will come into play remains uncertain, but we wonder if it will affect vehicles like the upcoming RS6 e-tron.
Jozef Kaban, the former head of Volkswagen design, previously said a similar thing about VW vehicles. Kaban said he wants to see vehicles with more emotion and character, but we guess that won't be happening anymore, as the ex-design boss has been moved elsewhere in the organization.
Join The Discussion