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Chief Designer Says Concept Coupe Captures “Essence” of Volvo’s Past and Future

Bringing new, sensual shape to brand best known for boxy designs.

by on Sep.11, 2013

The Volvo Concept Coupe draws its inspiration from the maker's old P1800 model.

Automotive designers often look into the rearview mirror when searching for new idea.  The latest version of the Volkswagen Beetle is perhaps the best modern example. But don’t use the word “retro,” stylists typically preferring the term, “DNA” to describe the look they were going for.

Or, in the case of Volvo, “the essence” of what the Swedish automaker stands for, explains new design chief Thomas Ingenlath, as he explains the motivation behind the new Volvo Concept Coupe making its debut this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

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For those who might associate Volvo with the bland and boxy designs of decades past, the Concept Coupe could come as a shock. Then again, those more familiar with Volvo over the ages will quickly see the clear influence of the maker’s old P1800 sports car, produced between 1961 and 1973. Ingenlath admits it serves as a strong influence – not only for the Frankfurt show car but for the production designs Volvo plans to bring to market over the next few years.

“It’s the essence of what we’re doing,” Ingenlath says during an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com. “We’re taking the heritage of Volvo and remaking it as a convincing case for the future.”

Volvo chief designer Thomas Ingenlath with the Volvo Concept Coupe.

Under the ownership of Ford Motor Co., Volvo made a concerted effort to move away from its boxy, functional design language, and that strategy has only accelerated since the Swedish maker was sold to the ambitious Chinese company Geely a few years back.

(For a complete round-up of news and views from the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, Click Here.)

The image of the Volvo wagon still remains the most common perception of the brand, acknowledged Ingenlath, something “working against us,” he laments during a conversation alongside the new Coupe Concept.

With a new product strategy falling into place based around two new vehicle architectures, Volvo recognized it was a good time to make some significant moves to change those perceptions. Soon after he joined the company, Ingenlath was set to work finding a way to pull a new design language together.  Searching for that brand essence in past products he turned to the P1800, “and the pieces fell together.”

(First look: Mercedes-Benz S-Coupe Concept. Click Here.)

One won’t confuse the two vehicles. It’s not a retro remake like the latest-generation VW Beetle. The Coupe Concept doesn’t have the P1800’s diagonal fins, for example, though the broad and sharply creased rear shoulders clearly do bring them to mind.  The LED lighting is very modern and the overall shape is forward, rather than rearward looking.

And unlike many of the other concept vehicles on display at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show, one gets the sense, if you will, of pre déjà vu. You know you’re going to see this design again.

The interior of the Volvo Concept Coupe will show up in new models like the XC90 and S90.

“This was not about coming up with a fancy show car people will forget about a year from now, Ingenlath stressed.

Indeed, the remake of the big XC90 due out in 2014 “will be the first interpretation of this language,” albeit in the more massive dimensions of a crossover-utility vehicle, the designer reveals.

Soon after, a more literal translation will follow in the form of the redesigned Volvo S90 sedan, which he promises “will be the closest you can get to this.”

There’ll be some tweaks and modifications, obviously.  There always are when design exercises have to be converted into sheet metal, rubber and glass.  But he insists that the overall look of the S90 will be “very close” to the Coupe Concept, obviously adjusting for the addition of two more doors.

And that, Ingenlath and the rest of the Volvo team hope, will finally have people rethinking their image of what Volvo is all about.

(Audi goes wild with Nanuk Concept. Click Here to check it out.)

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One Response to “Chief Designer Says Concept Coupe Captures “Essence” of Volvo’s Past and Future”

  1. Yeah right says:

    Now THAT is a bad lookin’ vee-hickle. Yes!