The year 2023 is looking good for Volvo. After the announcement that the new 100% electric crossover EX90 will go into production, it is now the turn of the next small SUV, also 100% electric: it will be presented under the official name of EX30 on June 7.
To top it all off, Volvo announced a month ago the appointment of a new “world” design director in the person of Jeremy Offer – with a very special background – and the opening of a new design centre in Shanghai, China. Below, the new Volvo range with the arrival of the 100% electric EX30.
Jeremy Offer (below) took up his post on 1 May, replacing Robin Page who, according to the official statement, “remains at Volvo as a senior advisor. The newcomer reports to the Managing Director Jim Rowan and is part of the Swedish manufacturer’s management team. A manufacturer which, let’s not forget, is in the hands of the Chinese company Geely Auto, which entered the car world in 1997 and which has brilliantly managed to maintain its position in the market. 1997 and which has brilliantly preserved the DNA of the Swedish brand acquired from Ford in 2010.
“I’m very pleased to welcome Jeremy to Volvo Cars,” says Jim Rowan, “He brings a wealth of design experience from electric vehicles and industrial design to digital products and services – all of which are essential to Volvo’s transition to a fully electric future.”
It is true that the new design director has an atypical background. Jeremy Offer most recently led Arrival’s design team as vice president and design director, working on vehicle programs, components, branding and user experience. Prior to joining Arrival, Jeremy was responsible for industrial design and was part of the leadership team at global consulting firm EPAM, where he helped integrate service and industrial design into their broader consulting practice.
“It is a great honour for me to take up this position at Volvo, a company with a fantastic heritage that is at the forefront of a new era,” says Jeremy Offer. Now he will have to ensure the launch and continuation of a new design language, pioneered by the great EX90, among others. And on 9 June he will have to showcase the work of his predecessor by revealing the small EX30. But the man has arrived at the right time as the range is taking shape with four 100% electric models.
To help the company in its future endeavours, Volvo is giving it a brand new design centre on a platter, this time in China, in addition to the studio in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Camarillo, California, USA. The new studio in Shanghai has all the tools and processes necessary to facilitate the entire design process from concept to production. The capabilities include milling and designing 1:1 scale models for both interiors and exteriors.
The Colour & Materials department as well as the HMI or UX (User Experience) design departments also have a prominent place in the new building. The Shanghai designers also have access to the most advanced digital tools, such as virtual reality, with which they can communicate directly with the other two studios.
With large windows instead of closed walls, wide staircases and high ceilings, the two-storey building offers a working space with many open areas. The 5,500-square-metre studio houses more than 100 people in a clean, simplistic environment, so that the designer is immersed in a neutral world and pushed to the limits of his creativity. The days are long gone when manufacturers set up their new studios in the heart of cities that are supposed to be inspiring. I like to repeat that the Peugeot 205 was created in front of the Garenne Colombes cemetery…
This architecture offers exceptional luminosity, although the large 1,000 m2 model presentation room has dedicated lighting. It is combined with an outdoor display area, as in most automotive design studios.
It should be noted, however, that the size of this area (below) is quite small. It is fortunate that Stellantis Europe’s designers, notably those of DS, Citroën and Peugeot, have a generous area at the La Ferté Vidame test centre where they can run their 1/1 scale motorised models on a circular track.
Jeremy Offer says “the architecture of our new design studio is a stunning blend of our Scandinavian design heritage and inspiring East Asian influences. In an effort to bring high-end Scandinavian design closer to our customers in Asia Pacific, our team draws inspiration from both Scandinavian nature and Asian art to ensure our products appeal and resonate with consumers in these markets.”
This mixture of genres is not necessarily easy to unify into a single language. It’s not easy to serve Chinese noodles with the famous köttbullar meatballs… But Jeremy Offer’s international experience in many fields should enable the new Volvo restaurant in Shanghai (sorry, the new Chinese Volvo design centre) to reach 3 stars in the short term…