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Function or form? How do we want the car of tomorrow to look?

GfK and AutoScout24 surveyed around 8,800 people for the report ‘The Cars We Want Tomorrow’. Drivers aged 18-65 in seven European countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain), were surveyed on a wide range of topics from safety to cost, comfort to the environment, connectivity to design. Here we look at design matters: should the car of tomorrow be a thing of beauty, or should form be led by function?

Functionality first

If we were to ask designers how vehicle design influences a customer’s decision of what car to buy, most would be confident that appearance has a significant impact on choice. The look of a vehicle creates identity and conveys emotions. It projects the spirit of the age, the zeitgeist. The results of this survey however show that drivers are far more pragmatic and open about what tomorrow’s car might look like, and this means there is increasing scope for radical changes in design.

For two thirds of participants across Europe, cost effectiveness should be the key factor in vehicle design (63%), followed by environmental friendliness (60%). In fact, when offered an unusual design to consider by today’s standards, such as golf ball-like indentations on the surface of the vehicle, the majority (59%) would choose it if it were better for the environment.

When we look at Germans in particular, we find that more than half (57%) said future design should be based on cost-efficiency. One half (53%) said in the future car design should be secondary to drive technology, and one third (34%) explicitly specified that they accept that the car of the future might look radically different.

Tomorrow’s car is expected to look and sound radically different

This acceptance that cars are going to look very different in the future has changed dramatically since the survey was carried out for the first time in 2012. Approval of radical design changes has increased from 8% to 42%. This stretches into materials: 62% of Europeans (57% of Germans) could imagine new materials such as cork and neoprene inside the car, and half of Europeans (52%) and 40% of Germans would accept a dynamic, versatile or malleable car body shell.

Many Europeans (46%) think the car of tomorrow should sound different from today’s combustors, but people’s openness to a new sounding car differs by market. Spanish (62%), Italians (57%), and the French (46%) are more opened-minded than Germans where only one third (33%) are willing to accept a new driving sound.

Thomas Weiss, Editor-in-Chief AutoScout24 Magazine, says: “This research suggests that drivers think that a sustainable car should ‘look’ sustainable and, in some cases, should sound different too. Not surprisingly perhaps, manufacturers of the first electric cars haven’t broken too far away from the traditional appearance of a car, but with the obvious willingness of customers for more radical designs, and different types of vehicles coming to market, we can expect to see more creative and interesting cars on our roads.”

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There are five articles in this series covering safety, cost, budget, functions and mobility. Read the full study for free at:www.thecarswewanttomorrow.com

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