It’s no easy task completely transforming the look of a major automaker — all the more so when you still need to retain the basic DNA of a vaunted brand like Mercedes-Benz. But that’s what Gorden Wagner has to deal with as the chief design officer for the German luxury manufacturer.
Wagener has hinted at the new direction he wants to take since being named to his post in 2016, but nothing has sent such a strong signal as the new Mercedes EQS sedan that debuted today with its distinctive “one-bow” shape. The sedan is the all-electric equivalent of the flagship S-Class and will anchor the automaker’s aggressive move into the battery-car market.
Born in Essen, Germany on Sept. 3, 1968, Wagener initially studied design at his hometown university before moving to London for a degree in transportation design from the Royal College of Art. Early on in his career, Wagener worked with a global mix of manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Mazda and General Motors, before joining Mercedes-Benz in 1997.
Following up on a media background briefing about the EQS, Wagener answered a series of questions TheDetroitBureau.com posed by e-mail.
TheDetroitBureau: There’s been a lot said about redesigning vehicles to take full advantage of the flexibility BEVs offer by relocating powertrain technology. How did that play into the design of the new EQS?
Wagener: Our new electric architecture is a perfect base for our new EQS design. As I always say “it’s all about proportion.” We put the wheels to the corners, stretched the greenhouse — the car’s cabin. We have very short overhangs in front and rear. Finally, we realized the first series production car with our new one-bow design. We managed to keep the sculptural form within one bow, which stretches over the complete body. This makes our EQS unique, elegant and so progressive.
TDB: How far do you think you pushed the envelope and do you see the opportunity to go even further in the future?
Wagener: We designers live in the future and with the EQS we created the first of its kind coming straight from the future. You know, we are already working on the upcoming models for the end of the decade and beyond. The EQS takes our customers today on a journey directly into the future as they get in and experience the unique blend of design and technology. We managed to keep the balance — go to the edge in design and tech, but we do not leave anyone behind. The EQS is like a catchy tune, you instantly want to drive away and stay, literally in the future.
TDB: What were the challenges you and your team faced, and what are the benefits with the finished product?
Wagener: The invention of our one-bow design some years ago with the F 015 (the CES show car in 2015) was a milestone within our branch, but nobody realized what we already had in mind. Now, when the EQS hits the road it is the eye catcher and turns heads. The incredibly difficult thing was to create a sensual long stretching line over the complete body keeping the car´s body side and silhouette so sleek and elegant. In the meantime, you could find some other cars trying to follow our design language, but when you compare you immediately see the difference.
TDB: How about carrying that over into the cabin?
Wagener: Within the interior, we pushed the borders so far, there is no second. Our blend of analog and digital design is just stunning. Not my words, they came from the media. However, I don´t disagree.
TDB: I doubt this will be a one-off use of the one-bow design. Will it influence future battery cars in the EQ line, much the way the S-Class influences the traditional Mercedes line-up?
Wagener: In one word: Exactly. The EQS is our electric S-Class and is a complement to our classy and elegant S-Class range. One is for the progressive and one is for the modern luxury lovers. Our model line-up has never been so one-of-a-kind in style and technology as it is today. We offer a brand universe that’s unique and diverse within every brand with the star logo, but always Mercedes in its core and genes.
TDB: What does the EQS mean for you, personally?
Wagener: The EQS is a gift, especially for us designers. For more the 100 years we refined our style and brand around three-box design. But now we could shape the future — again with Mercedes — and could design a complete new mobility device with absolute stunning technology, proportions and a new proportion and design language. Our design philosophy of Sensual Purity is key to this amazing sculpture we put on wheels. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us in design and I´m happy to start this amazing journey with my team and believe me, that´s just the beginning!