SAIC MOTOR’s concept car wins coveted design honor

SAIC Motor’s concept car for its Roewe brand, the VISION-R, has won a coveted award in premier Japanese automobile design magazine, CARSTYLING, winning the prize of ‘2015 Design of Chinese Concept Car’ recently, saying it subverted the authority of automobile design.


The magazine, regarding by industry insiders as a ‘design bible’ said that the VISION-R reflected sleek healthy aesthetics and represented upward strength, pointing towards an awakening of confidence and culture.


“We won the prize totally by surprise,” said the VISION-R design team. “At the end of last December, CARSTYLING wrote us a letter inviting us to receive the prize in Japan. We felt so surprised; however, they said that with the VISION-R, we’ve boosted the background and strength of our enterprise for a long time.”

Professionals in Japan are notoriously far-sighted. Some may ask whether VISION-R won the prize of CARSTYLING by chance when it showed up in Guangzhou Auto Show in November or whether there could be some other reasons.


Wang Xiaoqiu, general manager of SAIC MOTOR, once said that the significance of the concept was that the future style and language of ROEWE would follow the pattern when he was interviewed by the media at the Guangzhou Auto Show. And CARSTYLING had similar feelings and after on-the-spot exploration of this car, it gave the award quickly. Their reason was that the car subverted their former judgment that Chinese works lacked originality. Meanwhile, they also felt that the car would stand out at the five international auto shows, parallel to any authoritative design. Hence it is predicted that, “In the future, China will become another important strength that could influence global design as much as European, American, Japanese and South Korean carmakers,” said Wang.

Wang continued, “This is a conceptual change and also a judgment of design tendency for Chinese automobiles. Therefore, I pay more attention to the elements of ‘subversion’ and ‘explosiveness’ when it comes to the prize awarded by CARSTYLING for VISION-R.”

Wang suggests that there can sometimes be “arrogance” from Japanese carmakers who seldom compliment rivals and competitors. They especially show contempt to Chinese automobile design and look down upon their design peers in China. The recent design awarded to ROEWE looks set to change the perception of Chinese cars in the land of the rising sun.

“Several years ago, peers in Japanese automobile industry took some photos of Chinese models to ask me why Chinese automobiles always imitated others? It is obvious that their real intention was to ask why Chinese automobiles were bad!”

“Japanese automobile enterprises proposed it. So did American and Germany automobile enterprises. They even appealed to the law to check evidence at court. I explained to them that it was temporary; just like the prime stage of economic take-off in Japan, imitation design was merely a transition and could not last for long,” said Wang.

Wang suggested that it was clear that without innovation there would be a blind alley.

The Chinese public themselves also criticized the old designs, and so without originality, there would be no future. In recent years, imitation design of automobiles has begun to wither and design competitions have risen to the fore. Models of different styles have been attracting consumers.

The VISION-R is the concept car that represents original Chinese design the most. CARSTYLING did not reveal their comprehensive assessment until they explored many designs of Chinese automobile factories. They analyzed that as the Chinese automobile market became the largest consumption market in the world, design would be a priority in order to meet the versatile demands; aesthetic tiredness of external models have become unfit to realistic Chinese consumption. It is both spiritual appeal and an expression of ideology.

From the professional perspective, VISION-R not only represents novelty and wisdom of design; the key is that it is combined with oriental elements and aesthetic of Chinese emphasizes “oriental charm and occidental law”. Just like the paintings of Wu Guanzhong, both Chinese and foreigners are able to appreciate them and their unique artistry.

The independence of CARSTYLING wins the respect of automobile design circle, especially its professional persistence. Wang said, “I remember that at the beginning of 1990s, CARSTYLING used 1/3 length of the magazine to publish a single-compartment family car, Little Star, designed by Shenzhen Dragonfly Design, arousing a strong response in foreign automobile design circle. When I interviewed the director of the magazine, they said that the purpose of the design was to predict the future of demands of Chinese automobile market and the spiritual appeals to be expressed.

“Seen from the current days, the design idea of Little Star has not dated too much, showing that CARSTYLING did not make a wrong judgment. Later, when I saw an A-class Mercedes Benz, I thought of Little Star. It is said that good design reflects a kind of ‘lifestyle’ that can trigger resonance. And ‘lifestyle design’ is the soul of automobile design, namely making form follow emotions enthusiastically,” Wang said.

Undoubtedly, in today’s market the rise of automobiles comes firstly from that of design, which why the VISION -R’s prize winning is good news for SAIC MOTOR’s brand image. Having experienced the huge growth of Chinese brands as well as market baptism, it is realized that added value of products cannot be limited to just functionality; it should be promoted through design and the brand image has to be supported by the design.

Many foreign models have actually fallen behind the realistic demands of Chinese automobile consumption, which has been sensed by foreign-funded and joint venture automobile enterprises. As a result, they have boosted a large number of ‘localized’ models and made adjustments to the original models. From an aesthetic perspective they are only ‘catering’ for the market demands and have lost their original intention and charm. It may work in a short term but fail in the long run as they lose individuality and style.

“The aesthetics of Chinese automobiles will influence the world,” said Wang. In recent years, the topic of the ‘Chinese aesthetic’ has been mentioned many times among designers. No one will neglect the influence of China in both economic dimensions and consumption scale. When experts predicted the future trends of the global automobile market, they mentioned that ‘those who attract Chinese will attract the world’. Wand said, “Nowadays, we can see many models targeted at the Chinese market in foreign auto shows, especially the Frankfurt auto show, jokingly called ‘purchasing meeting of China’.”

However, how many designs are of originality and spirit or represent local creativity? Obviously, VISION-R won the prize to give the answer, through professional standards, objective evidence and prospective prediction. “In my opinion, the key point is not the prize but that positive Chinese design finally won the recognition of authority and that autonomous brands and soft power are being proved,” said Wang.

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