Looking Out - The Podcast

EP16 The hatchback renaissance - the Rivian R3 and Renault R5. Plus the death of the Apple Car, and the state of design leadership.

March 13, 2024 Drew Smith Season 1 Episode 16
Looking Out - The Podcast
EP16 The hatchback renaissance - the Rivian R3 and Renault R5. Plus the death of the Apple Car, and the state of design leadership.
Show Notes Transcript

The death of the desirable hatchback has been exaggerated. In the space of two weeks, we've been gifted the new Renault R5 and the Rivian R3 and R3X. We discuss their design, and what they mean for their respective manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the death of the Apple Car is now (almost definitely) certain and we explore why Apple finally caved.

And we also discuss what's happening to design in the C-Suite, and whether maybe our time at the big table is up, and whether that's actually a bad thing.

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🔗 Links
 @apolaine interviews Peter Merholz about the state of the design nation: https://www.youtube.com/live/XLQ3hnbdKcM?si=G-SsdVC4fv7XqAPk

Robert Fabricant - The big design freak-out: A generation of design leaders grapple with their future: https://www.fastcompany.com/91027996/the-big-design-freak-out-a-generation-of-design-leaders-grapple-with-their-future

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⏰ Time stamps
00:00 Pre-roll
01:58 How do we stay positive?
09:20 The Death of Project Titan
27:53 Rivian's new products!
40:13 The Reanult R5
49:48 The big design freak-out
01:01:52 The need for a new Baccara
01:04:45 Outro

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Joe SImpson:

No, and here's the kicker Drew, from my, my perspective, I think one of the things that Apple may have ultimately concluded is that the place it can have most impact and most difference is in the experience of how you interface with and use a car.

Drew Smith:

And they've already got it.

Joe SImpson:

And they've already got it.

Drew Smith:

there,

Joe SImpson:

85 to 95 percent of customers in North America say they're unwilling to consider a car unless it's available with Apple CarPlay. Hello, GM! Hello. I'm Joe Simpson, design strategist at a Northern European automaker, whose view I do not and have never represented on this show.

Drew Smith:

And I'm Drew Smith of StudioPhro and all of these views are my own.

Joe SImpson:

And welcome to Looking Out the Podcast, in which we connect the dots across mobility, design, auto, and culture.

Drew Smith:

And coming up in this 16th, can you believe it? 16 Joe, uh, episode of the show. We are going to talk about that topic that I'm sure none of you have, uh, heard about over the last couple of weeks. And that is the death of Project Titan, AKA the Apple car. We're also going to be talking about the Renault 5 and Renault's little dalliance with mining its back catalog, perhaps as a means to get ahead of the the Chinese coming into Europe. Uh, overnight, while I was sleeping, bearing in mind that it is currently half past seven in the morning, Rivian released a, an onslaught, I think it's fair to call it an onslaught, of new product. So we'll be touching on the R2 and the R3. And finally, we will be diving into an article which has been causing a bit of a stir In design leadership circles, uh, by a chap called Robert fabricant talking about the death of design at, uh, in the C suite of corporates. But before we get into that, at the end of our last show, we invited some audience participation. We said, Hey, People throw us your questions. What would you like to know from Joe and I, and we had one, we had one question. come back,

Joe SImpson:

That's our audience engagement. Hmm.

Drew Smith:

from Andrew Clews of The Motoring Podcast and in short. Andrew, who it's fair to say can be a little misanthropic about the automotive industry at times. I hope you don't mind me saying that Andrew wanted to know how Joe and I can stay so positive, uh, when Andrew himself struggles so much with what he sees around him. So Joe, I'm going to throw this to you. How do you stay positive about the automotive industry?

Joe SImpson:

Thanks. I think, um, Andrew is saying this in the context of how sometimes when we look at things, and I think it was, uh, off the back of our chat about autonomy and advanced driver assistance systems and the slight sort of scattered, uh, sort of landscape of those, Andrew was like, There's a bit of a kind of like shitshow going on here. How do you guys, when you're sort of working in this space, stay positive? Well, my take is this. And it's a kind of double one. Firstly, I'm a designer. I think, uh, as a designer, it's in your, uh, sort of makeup and mentality to stay positive. Design at its, uh, primary level is about problem solving and a belief that you can make things better. We are here to do better things than have gone before, and we will improve things. Um, And I think it's very interesting in the context of Andrew's question because really what he's getting at is, but don't things in the auto industry particularly seem to be maybe getting worse? And my take on that would be, well, what we're in, Is this time a great change? And if you think about it, the auto car has had, sorry, get me. It was like going to slingbacks and dab oppo again.

Drew Smith:

The auto car?

Joe SImpson:

The auto car, the motor car has had a hundred years of history to mature. About five, 10 years ago, you bought an internal combustion car it was just about the most highly developed, sophisticated consumer durable you could possibly buy. It wouldn't break. It would protect you in a crash. You could drive to something in it tomorrow. You wouldn't feel tired. It was just like a great thing. Now, electrification, safety, autonomy, software is- horrible phrase- disrupting that. And we're almost in this space where, you know, I think the electric cars we have today, maybe won't be seen as the greatest things in 10 years time, because things will have moved so fast. Um, and so it can feel like in this moment that we're in this times of things getting worse, but I just see it as a change point, which is the sort of ramp up to an inflection where things ultimately will. will get better, um, because things will get worked out. And, you know, the first version of a petrol car, uh, and some internal combustion cars were pretty terrible. I think we're actually doing not a bad job with some of the electric cars we've got out on the road today for the first and second generation. They're pretty impressive, but you know, let's, let's sort of move the, move the needle along 10 years. And I think we'll see some really, really impressive game changing things. So that's how I stay positive.

Drew Smith:

Oh, I'm, I'm going to get a little metaphysical on you here. Um, uh, so I am what's known as an Enneagram 7. What, what is the Enneagram and what is an Enneagram 7 you might ask? So the Enneagram is this, um, essentially it's a way of understanding personality types. It's rooted in mystical Christianity, believe it or not, but it maps quite neatly to the big five personality traits. And the Seven is known as the enthusiast, right? Um, I tend to think of myself as a relatively enthusiastic person. And our greatest fear as sevens is to live in the discomfort of the present, uh, the pain of the present. Uh, so how do we get away from that? How do I get away from that? I project myself into the future. And very much like you, Joe, uh, I think having trained as a designer and having worked for so many years, in the messy ambiguity of what can come next, what I choose to carve out of that ambiguity tends to focus on the positive. Yes, I can be skeptical. Um, but I, like you, I fundamentally believe that we are on a positive forward trajectory, and I, I, I take it as part of my life's purpose to influence that to the positive as much as possible. Um, sure, there's a lot to be depressed about in the world at the moment, I think it's fair to say. And yet to wallow in that would be to give up my agency to, to do something about it. Uh, and, and, and so that's, that's what drives me forward,

Joe SImpson:

Yeah, and maybe when it comes to cars and design particularly, we've both grown up with design education and I think people might say to us, why on this podcast, you're often quite critical. Well, I sort of take that because I grew up with that sort of art school, university education where, Rightly or wrongly, criticism is part of a way of build, breaking you down to build it up to do better to go forward. So criticism is a kind of fundamental part of improving and perhaps one of the things I get frustrated at in the context of, say, journalism and the auto industry is when we have people who are just seemingly along for the ride and giving platitudes. That's not a way to improve things. So I think, you know, Andrew and, um, Alan on their, you know, their podcast. They're often very critical, particularly on things they know a lot better than us, like say cyber security. I think they're literally like up in arms about some of those things and I can understand why, but I think what they're doing is a sort of other side of the coin to us. It's a kind of critical view from a very informed expert sort of perspective, which I think comes from wanting the industry to do better and do a better job. And we're in that space as well.

Drew Smith:

We're doing very much the same thing. And I think if, if, if you're listening to this podcast for the first time, go and have a listen or a watch of the episode that we did on the Toyota Century SUV. Because the second half of that episode is dedicated to our belief, um, of the importance of criticism and being professionally skeptical about the direction in which the industry is going in general and how certain brands are treating, treating their legacy. I think it's a really important show to understand how we think about this stuff. All right. I feel like we've answered Andrew's question. Um, I would like to get into Project Titan. Now- full disclosure in 20. I can't remember what year it was. I actually wrote an email to Tim Cook. I got Tim Cook's, I got Tim Cook's email address and applied for a job on Project Titan. And to my eternal dismay, I have no idea why this is. I never heard back from Tim. So this is personal, Joe.

Joe SImpson:

I'm shocked. In that light, shall I, shall I

Drew Smith:

Yeah, for it.

Joe SImpson:

Right. Okay. Apple car. Apple CarPlay. Um, so, uh, there's a phrase that will be familiar to some people when it comes to Apple, and that is, if Apple is preparing to enter your space, prepare to be disrupted. So, Apple, the world's most valuable company, um, Has single handedly, if you think about it, disrupted the worlds of music, telephony, computing, and many more. And what it plans to do next has historically been a big secret. Apple is famously secret. Apple famously is the master of the ta da, just one more thing. And then doing things which were mic drop moments, which, you know, sort of changed industries. But in, I think it's around 2015, It leaked out that Apple was working on a car, Project Titan. Um, it leaked out because they were recruiting people from across the auto industry, it was, uh, sort of, it became a not so well kept secret that Apple was working on a car or something around a car and almost 10 years to the day, last week, Apple officially stopped the project. Um, so

Drew Smith:

stopped the project that was never officially

Joe SImpson:

official. Yes. Having previously stopped it on a few previous occasions as well. Um, so Drew, uh, why is this interesting? Well, as you might've guessed, I have a few takes. Um, I'm keen to hear yours, but my first one is one that I fear that some of our listeners may find a little boring because it's fundamentally rooted in economics and, um, uh,

Drew Smith:

I love math.

Joe SImpson:

Well, if you'll, if you'll, uh, you know, do me the, uh,

Drew Smith:

Do you, do you the honor?

Joe SImpson:

do me the honor. Indulge me, I may try to explain what I think's going on and, and risk losing the entire listenership of our show. Right. Okay.

Drew Smith:

Buckle in everyone. Right. Yep.

Joe SImpson:

billion in 2022. Uh, Apple has around 24 percent of that. So, quite a big chunk of it. But, the car market in 2022 was worth, um, 2. 8 trillion. So, quite an order of magnitude more than the smartphone market. Um, and I think you kind of couple that with in 2015 when Apple started this project. We were at the, on the road up to the, the peak of inflated expectations around driverless cars. You have a scenario which Apple is going, Okay, what are we looking at next? What things ought we to be working on? And it's saying, Well, that's an enormous market. And that's a market where you have a technology, autonomous driving, self driving cars, where there are the conditions in which Apple may look to enter something. Because you know what? A electric software defined self driving vehicle by Apple is something that could be game changing, deeply appealing, and fundamentally make them lots of money. Um, but once you start to dig into this and once you start to put together this work and you start to go down the road of trying to make a car, um, a few things kind of become clear and, and I don't want to make myself sound like I'm some kind of expert and Apple's not, because I think Uh, you can look at this after the fact. It's very easy to explain why they might've shut it down, but the estimate suggests that an iPhone, which retails for, let's say around$1, 250, that's making 150 to 200 percent profit margin per device. It costs Apple around probably four or 500 to make it. Now, the highest operating margin of any car brand is Ferrari. They're making 24%. Uh, in 2022, Tesla was next best at just under 17%. And then Mercedes at just over 12. And there's another factor here, which is that while I think there are many, many, many people who can afford to buy or finance a thousand, 2, 000 phone, um, there are fewer people who can afford to finance a, or buy a car. And I think what Apple could have run into is a bit of a dilemma here. To have. impact in the market to genuinely have critical mass and take some market share and do something similar to Tesla. They're probably going to have had to build something that I imagine was pitched around the price point that Tesla is. So let's say broad figures, 50, 000. Problem is at 50, 000, being able to genuinely innovate and put content and things into the car, as you might imagine Apple would have wanted to, and gain anything like, say, even a 20 percent profit margin, would be extremely hard. Particularly when you consider that Apple will have faced this scenario of either needing to work with the sort of automotive supply chain, which is famously difficult. Uh, which is famously, you know, if you do innovation, it's not going to work in the way that Apple or found before Apple will have not been able to go to a Tier One supplier and say, develop this with us and then no one else can have it. That's not the way that sort of supply chain works. Um, and then if you look at the kind of other side of things, then you say, okay, well, we need to make money on it. We need to do the kind of innovation we want to do. All right, let's say we're going to make 100, 000 car. Problem is that If you look at sort of 100, 000 cars, Porsche Taycan and the Range Rover were kind of my two sort of 100, 000 car examples. Porsche sold just over 40, 000 Taycans in 2023, Range Rover sold 67, 000 Range Rovers. Now, Alright, you put an Apple badge on the front of that, and I'm going to be really generous and say, They could sell 200, 000 a year of them, which is really quite some stretch. But, you know, it's Apple, let's not forget. Um, and let's say they were able to make 40 percent profit on that car, which would be very good for the auto industry. The thing is then, if you do the maths on that, they're only making 8 billion profit. A year and that, which is a not insignificant amount of money, but they made 200 billion just from iPhone in 2022, right? Um, so I think what Apple might have ended up concluding is that for the huge investment, the ball ache, the effort, the amount of cash they would have had to burn to put into this. And the footprint with, you know, suppliers, contract manufacturers, setting up their own manufacturing and so forth, they, it simply wasn't worth it. And if you throw into that mix, the fact that I think it will have realized, you know, and maybe there were a few straws that broke the camel's back, that autonomous driving level five is still we don't know how many years away, but it's not coming in 2030. The, so the conditions for Apple to do something radically different with the form factor or the experience you could have in the car, simply are unlikely to be there.

Drew Smith:

They just don't exist. And I think if I cast my mind back to the interview that I had with Horace Dedue for The Next Billion Cars, and we also published through, through looking out, uh, you know, Horace, probably the world's best known, Apple analyst who then moved into automotive and then ultimately micromobility because he did not see the next big innovation uh, in how people and things move from A to B coming from the automotive industry, and he includes Apple in that. And it was really interesting when I put the question about the Apple car to him on the podcast.

Horace Dediu:

I've been writing about Apple a very long time, longer than I've been talking about micro mobility. Um, so, but, but yes, indeed. And, and this is another lens through which I can look and say, I can see exactly why Apple would not, is finding difficulty in, in entering the auto market, because they're finding it difficult to bring, to bear the technologies they have in a way that moves a needle in any meaningful way they need, you know, the, one of the conditions they have is they have to make a significant contribution to the, to the, to the market. They have to, you know, move, move, uh, I, I use these words as move the needle, but in, in, in, in, in the Christian, uh, uh, parlance, in, in, in language, it's, it's either discovering a new job to be done that the product can be hired for, or a attacking non-consumption. So finding people who are non-consumers of automobility and offering it to them, in which case, that's a very difficult thing to do when you have a used car market. But the, the, the, what I would say is that, that the, the non-con, non-con consuming market is addressed today by used. and the, the, the new jobs to be done market is like asking, okay, let's say you're, you're in a saturated market, what could you use a car for that you haven't thought of yet? And that, that is, you know, that is the premise of self-driving is saying, well, let the car do the driving and I'll use the car interior as personal private space where I can do other things than drive or be a passenger. I could be engaged in something else, but that's just making the car into a cocoon that becomes, you know, uh, a miniature, uh, uh, uh, home or a miniature, uh, study or something of that kind. Right? So then it's all interior discussion. You are all just talking about, well, how can I make so much, uh, of this, of this space? And what does improvement in that market look? we'll just make it bigger. So make it a, a minivan, then make it a, a van, then make it a, uh, an rv. So I did this analysis and I, I followed this logic and I said, the future, according to the incumbent logic today, is that we're going to have autonomous recreational vehicles orbiting urban areas, self-driven, um, waiting for their owner to sort of summon them, and then they can go inside and enjoy, you know, as if they were at home, enjoy their living space.

Drew Smith:

Right,

Horace Dediu:

And those vehicles, which are orbiting, uh, urban areas are doing so because the government lets them, otherwise they would be charging a real estate pricing for the fact that you're having a mobile home occupying public space indefinitely, consuming huge amounts of energy and space. And then, economically, that becomes, oh, it's just a home. Therefore we're gonna charge 150,000 plus for it. That, that, that does not resolve into any kind of logic where we're we giving affordable transportation to people? So you see, you know, it just, it just yet another reduction to an absurdity.

Drew Smith:

What is fascinating about this whole enterprise is culturally, historically, Apple has only entered markets where it has the opportunity to radically redefine

Joe SImpson:

Exactly.

Drew Smith:

understanding of what technology can do in a, in a certain market category or space. Um, now, if you look at, um, EV as a technology, like it's very much a known quantity, like it's been a known quantity for a very long time. There's, there's, there's relatively little competitive advantage of the kind that Apple is used to

Joe SImpson:

Right, and looking for. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

right in, in straight up electrification. Um, in terms of, and I'll come back to this in terms of customer experience, well, Apple kind of owns that space. Right. Certainly in markets like North America. Um, so what, what were they going to build that moat with? Well, it was going to be the technology that for the past 30 years has always been 10 years away and still seems like it's going to be 10 years away, which is full autonomy, so there was really very little competitive advantage. And, and, you know, one of the things that I, I said to you over text the other day was I haven't seen anybody talk about, um, Dyson's attempt to enter this space, but Dyson similarly. Went a very long way down the development path

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

to finally go, actually, you know what? We just cannot make enough money on this for it to be worthwhile when we can go out and sell thousand pound hairdryers, right?

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

The margins

Joe SImpson:

Maybe similarly, Maybe similarly to what you've just said that, Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it's interesting that Dyson and I've showing this, there was a video that came out, I think last week with him showing it in more fullness than we've seen before. Some lovely ideas and innovations, particularly around the seats and, and you know, haptic controls and stuff, but not really anything which I think made you go, Oh my God, that would have been utterly game changing. Um, you know, in the

Drew Smith:

It just would have been a very nice car. And I think that's where Apple will have landed, you know, particularly with the most recent announcements before the cancellation of the project. It sounded like it was just going to be a nice car. And that's, that's not enough for Apple.

Joe SImpson:

No, and here's the kicker Drew, from my, my perspective, I think one of the things that Apple may have ultimately concluded is that the place it can have most impact and most difference is in the experience of how you interface with and use a car.

Drew Smith:

And they've already got it.

Joe SImpson:

And they've already got it.

Drew Smith:

there,

Joe SImpson:

85 to 95 percent of customers in North America say they're unwilling to consider a car unless it's available with Apple CarPlay. Hello, GM! And, um, with the second generation of CarPlay on its way, which will take over the entire dashboard and allow the customer to control key interfaces in the car, such as the climate through Apple CarPlay. And I don't know, but I would bet that Apple's going to be able to see and get all that data and understand exactly what you're doing with your car, what you're listening to, what you're opening and closing and how hot you want to be and stuff, Apple may think, well that's broadly all we need. We can go and sit on that, collect that, build off it, and then maybe market conditions change and we do something more. But for now we can probably find a way to really monetize experience anyway.

Drew Smith:

And, and if you think about, okay, so let's say Apple was going to go into the vehicle business, you then start looking at stuff like infrastructure. And one thing that apple hates is depending on third party infrastructure to make its products work, right? They want to own kind of the whole stack. They want to build the whole ecosystem and keep people locked in. So, you know, imagine like having to take your Apple car to an Ionity or an Electrify America charger. I mean, that the, the user experience is just going to break yet what Apple can now do with. You know, their, their, their dominance in payments, for example, with things like Apple pay, um, with access to the data from the power management system in the vehicle, location, all that kind of stuff. You know, perhaps, perhaps one of the things that Apple can start to offer is an experience that finally starts to, um, match what Tesla can do with supercharger, but bring that to a far broader range of vehicles, um, with far less effort expended by the automakers. Right? It, it, it, it, it just starts to make an awful lot more sense.

Joe SImpson:

Yeah. A hundred

Drew Smith:

I just hope, I just hope that the gauge packs that we've seen so far as press images from Apple are indicative because they were pretty,

Joe SImpson:

I think they'll burn on it.

Drew Smith:

Um, where should we go next, Joe?

Joe SImpson:

Shall we talk about Rivian?

Drew Smith:

Let's talk about Rivian. It was like, it was like I woke up in the middle of an orgy.

Joe SImpson:

And, and not, I was going to say something else, but I'll let you expand on that.

Drew Smith:

Well, okay. So Rivian, I had my first run ins with the R1T and the R1S while I was in California and Vegas and Oregon,

Joe SImpson:

Yeah, and a similar time I was in, I was in the East coast doing similar things and having similar sort of experiences.

Drew Smith:

And they make me feel really nice inside, you know, they've managed to capture this essence of, um, American sort of understated American luxury at its best. I think like it's, it's not as, it's not as quiet as, as, as the best European luxury, but that's what makes it nice. There's, there's, there's, there's an elegance to it and a refinement. And it, it, it,

Joe SImpson:

with this sort of brand idea around, and I think again, it's a kind of nice, quiet, understated, American sort of freedom, explorative adventure, but without being yee haw, gung ho, destroying, kind of, with it.

Drew Smith:

It, It's the same thing that kept like the 1960s Jeep Grand Wagoneer in production all the way into the

Joe SImpson:

It's the

Drew Smith:

showing up in, in Ralph Lauren advertisements, right?

Joe SImpson:

yeah.

Drew Smith:

They've managed to capture this old money American feel really beautifully, but of course they're very expensive products. Uh, you know, kind of 75 to I think about 90, 000, yeah, a hundred. Okay. Um,

Joe SImpson:

I, I did some research and went on the, uh, pretend that I lived in New York and was like, what inventory is available to me? And they all seem to be a hundred thousand ish. I think they were all the top ones, but I had a similar experience. I went into their, whatever they're called brand store in New York. And, you know, I worked for another OEM, but I spent 10 minutes in there. I'm most like, Oh, I'd really like one of these. It's a really nice thing. Um, and the whole experience was very pleasant and really well judged. And I thought, Oh, this is a brand I would root for. And then subsequent to that, I think it's not so, um, sort of great to secret that they could do with some money and a certain, uh, Elon Musk has been saying, well, they're gonna run out of money quite quickly. And so, we've pivoted from that to, um, some cars which will come later, that are smaller and cheaper.

Drew Smith:

Okay. Let's, let's talk about the cars first because, uh, they've, they've announced the R2, which is a basically like a, an R1 that has shrunk in the wash and an

Joe SImpson:

And that was

Drew Smith:

that's

Joe SImpson:

That was expected and, and they've shown that today and that's supposed to be coming 2026, but it's essentially, I think, uh, D sector SUV, as you say, it's just like, it's, it's a very logical step from where they are with R1 S. It's a very similar design theme. And as you say, just sort of scaled down.

Drew Smith:

Slated to come to market for around 45, 000. Right, so a, a, a, a good step down in price, but the real surprise was, uh, the R3

Joe SImpson:

A, an R3 X.

Drew Smith:

in, in, in, the spirit of small American cars is quite odd. Like, like almost AMC Pacer odd

Joe SImpson:

there are these

Drew Smith:

in a way, but, but, but, but works really like, I love it when Americans do small cars, it's like, Oh, we don't quite know how to do this. Like, how do we shrink this down? And, and, and as a result, it has real charm to it in a way that the R2 is just like, The R2 is like a shrunken big one, the R3 has a character all its own and I'm, I'm quite delighted by it. But

Joe SImpson:

I think this is,

Drew Smith:

go on,

Joe SImpson:

I was just going to say, I think it's, um, It's interesting because it reminds me of all kinds of things. It reminds me, it's almost Italianate to me. It has this kind of Giugiaro 70s, slight Delta integrale, Integrale quality. Um, I've had a few conversations, a few texts in the industry, people saying sort of like vibes of slight sort of Honda E somewhere in there and stuff, but it has its own character and it makes it, it's really, It's very, it's a bit weird, but it's, it's, it's immediately likable. And

Drew Smith:

It's super, super likable. It's super likable and I'm just looking at a picture of the seat which I'll put up on screen. It's got freaking Daytona seats! Like, it's, it's, there are big holes punched through the seats with like nice anodized metal rings around them. I,

Joe SImpson:

really lovely color material, which I'm, uh, very impressed I can do for the price.

Drew Smith:

and here's the thing. So R2, on sale date of 2026, R3 and R3X, as far as I'm aware,

Joe SImpson:

to follow.

Drew Smith:

no on sale date yet. And, uh, I'll put up a, a chart of Rivian's free cashflow, but not a lot of money there, folks.

Joe SImpson:

And we've seen. I think Fisker is the obvious one. And, um, Fisker, uh, the backend of 2023 showed, um, the Pear, um, the, oh, what's the pickup truck called? The Alaska. And, um, I think there was something else. And it was like, here's our future range of vehicles. And this is becoming, I feel like a play from these startups, which is, look, this is what we're going to do. This is the product plan. Um, And it's a play I think to drive interest and investment. And it's very interesting because it's quite different and unusual in the context of the automotive industry because you would, I mean, The, the, the, the delta or the, the difference in time between when a product is shown and then when a customer can actually have it in their hands has been growing steadily over the years. I remember Ford doing it, uh, at some point in the sort of 2010s and it being nearly a year and everyone being like, this is insane. But now that's normal. Um, but I think still with the R2: two years, that is still a long time or considered a long time and unusual. And then with the R3 even further out. So Drew, would you say this is then a quite clear play to drive investment and to show that, you know, Rivian's got a plan and people should jump in and invest and help them out? Yeah,

Drew Smith:

it is, feels like, As I said, this came out while I was sleeping. Uh, so my, my very, very hot take is that it feels comprehensive. It feels like it has depth to it. You know, I was saying to, to Michael Bonofsky in our kind of chat this morning. You know, just looking at the level of finish on the R3 model that they showed on stage. I'm like, okay, there's a, this is, this is quite fully developed

Joe SImpson:

it's not Vaporware. It doesn't have a feel of Vaporware.

Drew Smith:

Exactly. My fear is that we, or that Rivian runs into Cybertruck territory or it runs into Roadster territory. Um, and you know, what was it? It was four years. For Cybertruck to go from concept to production. And I think the original projection was something like 18 months.

Joe SImpson:

Yeah, I, I will, I will add that from a strategist and, um, product strategy point of view, I think they played this very well because I think, and again, we were talking about that with Mike in our group chat, I think he was a little bit disappointed with the R2 and my take was, well, As a kind of designer's designer, you'd be like, Oh yeah, it's not really bringing anything new. But as a strategic player, when you're trying to build a brand, it's absolutely the right thing to do. Like, it's, it's, it's very clearly a Rivian. It takes everything that was successful about the R1, uh, S, and simply scales it down. So you're built, I feel like you're building a brand out consistently.

Drew Smith:

Well, and I, and I think the, the thing that comes to mind for me is the, the era that was derided as same sausage, different length, um, with the German OEMs, right? So you had, uh, Mercedes, you know, 190. W124, W140, uh, R129, right? And then at BMW, you had, well, actually you had a couple of generations of 3, series and, and yet it was. It was that, um, consistency between model ranges that actually built, if you like the reputation, uh, the design reputation of these, of these brands. And in a market that feels so fragmented and we've, we've talked about this before. Like there's, there's, there's. There historically has been some kind of genius to Mazda just sticking with like 3. 6 and

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

It's, it's, and, and it's such a, an easy to understand range and I think Rivian. Is doing something similar here. Like if you look at Ford as the counterpoint, like F 150 Lightning, Mustang Mach E,

Joe SImpson:

Mackie, Mustang, Mustang,

Drew Smith:

like how does it all glom

Joe SImpson:

glued together. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

Right.

Joe SImpson:

And I mean, this has forever been the thing. Nissan have always had this thing of like, they, you know, uh, kind of a set of very diverse characters and they don't believe in this. They've had serious design directors on, on record. Alfonso Obese talking about, we don't believe in the kind of same sausage, different length brand building. Um, you've got, um, Uh, brands like, uh, Renault who we're gonna talk about in a minute, who I think are increasingly building a kind of collection of vehicles and the, and Hyundai with the Ionic, where I think Sang Yup talks about it as a set of chess pieces where they are, you know, it's a chess set, but you've got different characters and players within that. So there's different, different brands have very different takes on this.

Drew Smith:

They're not premium, uh, slash aspiring luxury brands, and I think that is one of the things to my mind that probably could underpin the design strategy at Rivian is okay. What, what are some of the hallmarks? Of luxury? Well, it's it's, consistency, right? It's it's it's easily identifiable hallmarks that get carried across multiple products that allow you to know and allow others to know that you've bought into this thing, no matter what the no matter what the price

Joe SImpson:

of the shape size and price point and I would add, I think that the R3 then being a bit of a different thing is clever because it's still, it feels clever. Rivian, it feels consistent still, but it shows they are evolving and they move forward. So to actually do the two things at the same time, if you take away the potential lead time is actually quite clever in terms of building the brand out, but showing there's kind of ideas beyond the simple sort of like repeat and resize. Yeah,

Drew Smith:

Rivian. Like rooting for you people, uh, really hope that we see the R2 and the R3 and the R3X. Let's, uh, move on to another R, which is the R5, the

Joe SImpson:

Or the"Renaultlution" Drew. The"Renaultlution". I it's the"Renaultlution". Yeah. Copyright Meo.

Drew Smith:

"Renaultlution". It sounds like something, it sounds like something that happens in a. Porta potty

Joe SImpson:

might have got it wrong. I hope I haven't.

Drew Smith:

solution, renovation.

Joe SImpson:

Anyway, a new Renault 5.

Drew Smith:

A new Renault five, which looks in many ways like the old Renault 5, but is very much not the old Renault 5. I think what I found, find really fascinating about this car is and bearing in mind, I haven't seen it in person. It seems to play the same trick as the Hyundai Ioniq does in terms of its proportion,

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

big. Yeah. You know, like the first time you see a Hyundai Ioniq on the street, you're like, it's huge.

Joe SImpson:

It's a, it's a DSUV, not a golf, you know?

Drew Smith:

Not a Golf. And I, you know, whenever I saw the press images, I'm like, Oh, that'll be a nice Golf competitor. No. Um, I, I find this car absolutely fascinating and. Like all credit to, yeah, like all credit to, to the design team for a very, of, of the moment update of a quietly iconic car, whether, whether you look at the, the first 5 or kind of Gandini's sort of remake of it. Like you, you see those cars in France and you're just like, I'm in the good place. You know, they, they, they speak of it, of a post war time and place where France was a, was a, you know, it was, it was a powerhouse in many ways, a technological and social powerhouse. And I think to, to take that and update it in, in the way that they have to, to make it electric is a really lovely thing. I do I do worry just a little bit that, you know, the, the original two generations have aged so gracefully, right. They, they wear their history well, um, I think a lot of that is down to the, to the fact that, you know, they had those massive, like raw plastic bumpers on them, you know, they, and when they live a Parisian life or a, or a life Lyonnais, they get knocked up and scuffed and they,

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

they get a patina, right? And, and I guess my concern with the new one is that it, the old one became a sort of a fashion item in spite of itself. This one is presenting itself very much as a fashion item. And, and my, my worry is that that makes it a little bit brittle and that it perhaps won't age with the same grace.

Joe SImpson:

I see what you're saying, and I have some issues with it, but I don't think it matters. And, and here's, here's why, um, no, no, I don't think you are, actually. I think everything you're saying, I have had sort of similar thoughts about. However, I think there's a couple of things. One is just the context of time. We know that all. Mainstream brands in Europe are concerned about the influx of cheap Chinese EVs. Renault have a 25, 000 cheap EV. Now, you can argue the toss whether 25, 000 is cheap or not. But in the context of electric cars, and these days, it kind of is. Um, and I think it's, Renault have something now, or at least soon, with which to compete. So that's a great sort of, you know, job done for a start. It's not like going to be caught with the trousers down when, you know, a chunk, a ton of cheap BYDs arrive in, in France. Um, but the second thing is that then on top of that, they also have a product, which I think is in, and it's interesting because exactly what you said, it's not really Renault's history star, but what they've done to it is a, Fiat 500 or Mini playbook, and I think it is This idea of dialing up the Frenchness of the design to make and, and really riffing off, off the history to make a vehicle, which then whether you like it or not has bags of character and they've really gone to town on the stories. And it gets to the point where maybe it's overplayed and maybe it's a bit

Drew Smith:

The baguette holder. Like,

Joe SImpson:

The baguette holder

Drew Smith:

I saw the Autogefül of the baguette holder and I'm like, please don't get sexy with the baguette holder.

Joe SImpson:

I deleted

Drew Smith:

Come on, Thomas.

Joe SImpson:

again. Um, I was like, Autogefül is like, is making me have like, issues of Instagram. Um, uh, but That, the, the, like the personalizable, like gear PRNDL stick, which you can customize into like a French thing, the little, like the 3d printed covers in the, uh, in the center console, even, and I mean, I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but, but the, the, the Renault version of Clippy in the, uh, in the interface, um, everyone remember like the, the Microsoft

Drew Smith:

I can, I can tell you it's, it's not going to work out well.

Oh, you're there. Sorry, I was playing Songpop. Okay. Hello, everyone. I'm Renault the Avatar. I'm super excited and ready to join Renault 5. I'm passionate about sports. When I'm not in the Renault 5's onboard computer, you can find me on a tennis court, a rugby field, or any other event of which Renault is a partner. Come on, let's go. I'll show you what I can do. My goal is to help you. I think of your comfort in the morning by starting the preheating of the car. I know that on weekends, you like to get some fresh air to recharge your batteries. So I anticipate and suggest when to charge the batteries of your Renault 5. And if a light comes on, I can also tell you what's wrong with your Renault 5. No stress, bro. You keep going in cool mode, I'll activate the driving aids. And that's not all. I also have lots of other super cool features. If you want, I'll tell you more in my application. Okay, I'm going back. I have work to do. Ciao! We'll see each other again very soon.

Drew Smith:

I mean, just

Joe SImpson:

But, But, I, God loves a

Drew Smith:

an interaction. Yeah, but

Joe SImpson:

I see you're trying to turn left. Would you like me to fuck that up for you?

Drew Smith:

God love Microsoft for Clippy? No, I think. I think, I think the score is in and Clippy was a fail. Reno, Reno, actually who shares the same name as my best friend, Reno now, R E N O, hi Reno, I know you listen to this. Um, I think, I, I think Reno. Not my friend, the

Joe SImpson:

the car.

Drew Smith:

will turn out to be a bit of an embarrassment, long term, uh, like just, just from an interaction design perspective, it, it, it smacks very much of what a lot of brands were trying to do at CES, which we discussed, which was like, let's, let's shoehorn avatars and AI into cars without really properly thinking through the use cases and, and, and whether it takes work away. Or whether it actually adds, adds cognitive load.

Joe SImpson:

But, but, Drew, can we just gloss over that? Because I kind of like it and it's got a really nice face and it has French flags and a baguette holder and, you know, you can get it

Drew Smith:

Oh, the car or, or Renault

Joe SImpson:

The car.

Drew Smith:

Gets a bit confusing. Doesn't it? No, look, I'm with you. I'm with you. I think, um, brittleness aside, and I am, I am looking at one of the 3d printed center console covers and I'm like that has got some proper French interior plastic vibes about it. That's going to last about five minutes. Uh,

Joe SImpson:

I give it, I'm going to give it to my seven year old.

Drew Smith:

brittleness aside, I think it's absolutely gorgeous. And, and here's, here's the skeptic in me being put away. I'm just really happy that it's here because it is a, it, it, it, it is a spot of joy.

Joe SImpson:

Yeah. And I gather for those that was in Geneva, it was the main, they were, they were very glad it was there simply because it made it worth going. Without it. I think they would have been like, Oh, why am I?

Drew Smith:

What,

Joe SImpson:

I change my plane ticket? Yeah. I got back home earlier. Yeah. Should we talk about auto shows? I think we're, we're really time ticking on, but uh, you

Drew Smith:

No, I don't think we should talk about auto shows because I think Geneva is probably dead and buried anyway. Um, based on, based on this year, which is sad, no more steak in butter. Um, in, in the center of Geneva for me. Uh, what I do want to talk about, um, finally, is this Robert Fabricant article in Forbes. Magazine, I believe it was, um, about

Joe SImpson:

to it in the last newsletter for those, uh, in intros, but we'll put a link in the show notes as

Drew Smith:

in the show notes, uh, about the death of design as a C suite darling. Perhaps is the way to put it. Um, now the context for this is of course, the rise of IDEO and Stanford D school and, um, the promulgation of design thinking as I think ultimately where it got to was a proposition, uh, a proposed solution to all the ills that might befall a business. Uh, and having worked. Um, into sort of very large global management consultancies that bought in design and innovation consultancies precisely because. In effect, they offered design thinking. Um, I saw firsthand how this hammer, um, was applied to every single nail, um, that came across the desks of partners and managing directors at, at, at these firms, and in many cases, manifestly failed to deliver results. So when this article came, came along. I have to say I wasn't super surprised that there's been a bit of a retrenchment, um, away from design thinking and design as the, the ultimate tool for, for, for C suite execs to solve their business problems. Um, I think it's, it's really interesting bar one example that I know of, uh, not mentioning names. I can't think of a single. that comes from a design, like a hardcore design background.

Joe SImpson:

I can think of one.

Drew Smith:

Right. Yeah. I mean, I can think of one,

Joe SImpson:

yeah, but one.

Drew Smith:

one.

Joe SImpson:

And, and yet, Drew, and just sorry to slightly interrupt your flow, I felt that the article, I, a lot of it resonated with me, you have much greater experience in this space than I do. Yeah, I felt it was talking about Or primarily about the world of Silicon Valley tech and sort of UX to a greater or lesser degree. Um, what's your take on it? Do you think this is a more general, um, state of the sort of industry? Um, or would you separate out sort of, you know, consumer goods firms from this kind of space? Thanks.

Drew Smith:

Yeah, I think it's a good shout and we've talked about this distinction before about the role that design plays in a durable goods firm, like, uh, a car company, right? Um, versus the role that design historically played in a bank, which was nil. Apart from, you know, the, the marketing and the, and the advertising teams to design all of a sudden being everywhere within a bank. Now, back in 2016, 17, I worked for Australia's second largest bank called Westpac and was part of, uh, A, um, a cohort of designers that was charged with changing the culture of the bank to become more design led because by becoming more design led, the bank was going to become more customer centric and I shit you not, I sat in meetings where people were like, this is great. I'm going to become a designer as a result of a three hour design thinking workshop. It's like,

Joe SImpson:

maybe has been on the wall a little bit then.

Drew Smith:

not entirely sure that's true. You might have a greater sensitivity for how design works as a problem solving methodology. But, but this is, this is, I think this is what the article is getting at. It's, it's, it. In, in companies like car companies and, you know, hard, hardware companies, design has always been, um, an important consideration, but I would say very rarely has it had representation at the very highest levels of the organization. Again, apart from one example, there are no car companies that are led by designers and, and, and one of my reflections on that point, go on.

Joe SImpson:

was going to say, and quite often design in car companies or other product companies, it will still report into either R& D or marketing rather than directly be on the C suite and reporting into the CEO.

Drew Smith:

Exactly. And, and one of the things that I mentioned in a note to, to, to Andy Polaine, um, who, who asked for my thoughts on this article was a reflection on one of my best slash worst bosses ever. Um, a guy called, called Ben Langdon, who I have an enormous amount of respect for, um, in, in, in many ways. And he, he came from the advertising world and the way he built his, uh, teams was to pair what he called a creative with a suit

Joe SImpson:

Um,

Drew Smith:

he knew that the things that incentivized and excited the creative could be in stark opposition to, for the need for the organization to make money.

Joe SImpson:

yeah.

Drew Smith:

Right. So by pairing, Um, both in terms of capability and, and character creatives and suits together, he created, you know, essentially a leadership team that could, you know, work, work within the tension between the two. Um, You know, I, designers like shiny things, right? We like to get the best, the absolute best outcome that we can. And I think what's interesting is if you take a look at an organization like Amazon. Like, Amazon has the most butt ugly e commerce interface,

Joe SImpson:

Yeah.

Drew Smith:

I, I, I, I think I've ever seen, you know, it, and it, it, it is essentially a, it is essentially an online retailing monopoly. So, there's, there's clearly, A point at which there is enough design.

Joe SImpson:

Yeah. And, and I think, and to add to that for designers to, I think, and if you've not read the article, well worth going and having a read, I think it, it forces a bit of a long hard look in the mirror about our value. And I think you, you know, there's two people speaking to you on a podcast here that intrinsically, obviously invested in valuing design, nonetheless, what can design and designers do to learn, understand, and play more of a role in business, in helping design to. connect with and show up in business terms, because I think where I sit from design has the ability to add amazing customer value in many, many areas, which I believe is good for business because people will be prepared to pay more for it. But so often when we're working, and particularly, I think in hardware design, sort of organizations, it's about making the shiniest, best thing. And I don't think that's always because we're just narcissistically interested in the shiniest, best thing. It's often because we have a tacit sense that that is what the customer will want and be prepared to pay for. But how do we work to, uh, I'm not going to say prove that out, but to connect it more with actually being able to show it's delivering. value, or it's able to deliver value. This is at the fundamental, I think, of some of the key challenges for design with a big D as we go forward.

Drew Smith:

So, so I think there's two things inherent in what you're saying. One is how, how do you better prepare designers to, to talk to the world of business, um, and express the value of, of design and, and what design can bring. And I think part of that is not overselling. Right. And I think organizations like IDEO, like, uh, there are many organizations that I could name some of, some of them I've worked for, so I won't

Joe SImpson:

go there. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

have, have massively oversold. Um, the, the, the, the role of design in business. I think there's something else though. And Andy Polaine um, this came up in one of Andy Polaine's recent podcasts. Uh, and I forget the name of the guest, forgive me, Andy and guest, but the guest was talking about the fact that. Um, and Chris Bangle has talked about this as well, actually, there are no codes as in like the American concept of like building codes or architectural codes for design. We have not codified, um, a single source of truth, if you like, for how design works and the value that it delivers, there is no deep, um, it's not like you can go to a manual. Um, That applies to the entire industry and look up the approach for achieving outcome X. And, and so what I think happens is that every single fricking time a new design project starts, it's like, Oh, okay. Like. Let me tap into my memory of how this happens. Let, let us tap into our memories, which may differ to then start to execute this thing as opposed to being able to go, okay, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang from, from a list. This is what we need to do. Now I can imagine that that would be quite an affront to many designers sense of creativity. Um, but it is that kind of repeatability and scalability that, uh, makes the business world tick.

Joe SImpson:

Yeah. And.

Drew Smith:

and very often we're found wanting as designers in being able to sort of slot into that way of

Joe SImpson:

Yeah. I think there's something that comes on top of that which I was conscious about is What's enough? When do you stop? designer I know ever really wants to put a pen down. Every car designer I know, every person who's ever worked on a car can tell you all the things that they hate about it that should have been better, that with a bit more money or a bit more time or a bit more something would have been better. But when are we satisfied? By the way, uh, Andy Plain's podcast, Peter Merholz's State of the Design

Drew Smith:

that's the

Joe SImpson:

uh, it's a very good listen. I listened to it last week. It's talking about this entire subject if you want to dive deeper into it. Well worth a listen.

Drew Smith:

So good. So good. At this point in the proceedings, Joe and I thought that we were done with the show. But once we had wrapped things up and we'd recorded the closing credits, we realized that there was one absolutely vital aspect of the new Renault R5 that we had left untouched. And in honor of our wonderful friends Owen Reddy and Mark Chalmer, we just couldn't leave it out of the show. So here it is. Oh my, we didn't talk the Baccara, how can we miss the Baccara? you know what I, are we still, oh, we're still recording. Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, before we go, before we go, we have to talk about the, the edition of the Renault 5 that Renault has not yet shown. And

Joe SImpson:

must.

Drew Smith:

which it must, I think in the UK, it had the really underwhelming name of Monaco.

Joe SImpson:

Maybe it did! Oh, was that different? I can't remember. But, but whatever. It

Drew Smith:

In France, there was something called the Renault 5 Baccara and cue Baccara, the music playing. The Baccara was to my mind, uh, actually maybe the Lancia Y10 came first, but it was, it was like the first properly luxurious.

Joe SImpson:

small car.

Drew Smith:

car, like we're talking metallic chestnut paint. We're talking gold badging. We're talking like, Uh, square studded leather and ruched, I think ruched door panels some delicate wood appliques. And I remember seeing my first Renault 5 Baccara as a kid and just being like, this is the coolest thing ever. And then I saw a Peugeot 205 Roland Garros, and I got very confused,

Joe SImpson:

Oh, conflicted.

Drew Smith:

but we need to see a leather and Alcantara. Oh, they're not going to do leather. Are they? Nobody's doing leather these days. It's not very chic. Actually, that would be the Frenchest thing to do To put like real leather and real wood in the new R5 and be like

Joe SImpson:

and an ashtray.

Drew Smith:

What is the environment? Renault, if you're listening,

Joe SImpson:

Make it

Drew Smith:

do us a good turn. We need the Baccara. We desperately need the Baccara. On that note, let's close it out again. All right, we're good. I reckon we might be done, Joe. We've had a bit of a break. We've come back with a few disclaimers. We hope they've satisfied people.

Joe SImpson:

And we hope that you enjoyed a bit more of a sort of, uh, wander around the various bits of news and interesting things we've, uh, been talking about, texting each other about over the past couple of weeks, because that was the point of Looking Out to sort of let you in on a bit of our conversations of two design strategists talking about auto mobility design and the world of culture around them.

Drew Smith:

Now for our next show, we have absolutely no idea what we're going to be talking about. Um, you'll find out in two weeks time. Uh, but for now, if you like this show, uh, and you're listening to it as a podcast, go on, share it with somebody, leave us a review on Apple podcasts. If you're watching this on YouTube, uh, hit like hit subscribe, share it. We'd love to keep growing this little family. The newsletter family has been growing quite nicely. Um, it's lovely to see all of these new people signing up. Um, but as we've said, that's it for this show. Uh, it was written and presented by me, Drew Smith.

Joe SImpson:

And me, Joe Simpson.

Drew Smith:

This is Drew Smith, this is Looking Out The Podcast. Thank you so much for listening and watching. See you next time.