Looking Out - The Podcast

EP17 Gandini's Top Trumps, BMW's Neue Klasse X, knobs, and our favourite gas station meals

March 25, 2024 Drew Smith Season 1 Episode 17
Looking Out - The Podcast
EP17 Gandini's Top Trumps, BMW's Neue Klasse X, knobs, and our favourite gas station meals
Show Notes Transcript

Sibilio. Bravo. Stratos. Magnum. And Shamal. Joe and Drew celebrate Gandini’s life and his greatest hits.

We also cover the BMW Vision Neue Klasse X, Euro NCAP’s physical button mandate, and a conversation about great gas station meals leads to us pondering the future of the road stop.

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⏰ Time stamps
00:00 Pre-roll 
00:30 Intro
01:39 Joe's apology
02:59 The death of Marcello Gandini, and Gandini's Top Trumps
19:53 BMW's Neue Klasse X
29:28 Euro NCAP's knob incentive
41:59 Our favourite gas station meals (and the future of the gas station)_
52:08 Outro

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Drew Smith:

I think I'm going to go with the Shamal just because it's like, I think most people can agree that if you spend long enough looking at a Quattroporte, uh, you're like, yeah, okay. Like I, I, I get this. It there's, there's a lot of subtlety to it. There is zero subtlety to the Shamal. It's just like Gandini grabbed his bag of tricks and went

Joe Simpson:

bang!

Drew Smith:

And it's it's mental Hello, I'm Drew Smith. Storyteller and strategist that started out as a car designer, now working independently at StudioPhro*'.

Joe Simpson:

And I'm Joe Simpson, a design strategist for an automotive OEM in Europe, whose views I do not and have never represented on this show.

Drew Smith:

And welcome to episode 17 of Looking Out the Podcast. in which we connect the dots between automobility, design, and culture.

Joe Simpson:

And, coming up on the show this week, we're going to talk about one of the greats of car design who, since we were last on air, has passed away. We're going to touch on the new BMW Neue Klasse X. And, Drew, what else are we going to talk about on the show tonight?

Drew Smith:

Knobs. And,

Joe Simpson:

We're gonna talk about knobs, buttons, and screens. Thank you. Buckle in folks, it's gonna be a fun one.

Drew Smith:

and surprise audience participation. Joe has no idea what we're going to be talking about. Uh, but, but before we get stuck in Joe, I believe, um, well, I mean, I'm going to try and superimpose a dunce hat on you because you made a fairly fundamental error in your mathematics in the last show. Do you want to, you want to own up to this?

Joe Simpson:

So when I went on a bit of a high horse about how much money Apple could or could not have made on a hypothetical car that they might or might not have been making and now definitely aren't, um, and how much the auto industry makes, I might've got some of my fundamental maths about, um, profit margin quite wrong. Um, Let's not go into the details of that. I'd prefer to gloss over it. Let's just say maths was never my strong point. I needed a tutor to scrape through an A level. Um, uh, but suffice to say that phones are far more profitable than cars. And I the fundamental point, the fundamental point I made still broadly stands. Is that okay?

Drew Smith:

Yeah, I that'll do the job. I think that'll do the job. So to the very kind person on threads who pointed out this, uh, fundamental error. Thank you so much. We hope monumental, fundamental, elemental, it's all of those things. We hope that has addressed that issue for you moving swiftly onwards. Uh, yeah, since we last recorded one of the greats of automotive design, Marcello Gandini Gandini has passed away and we thought that it might be fun to Well, I thought it might be fun. I, I, landed this on Joe right before we recorded.

Joe Simpson:

Three ago.

Drew Smith:

yeah. If we played a game of Top Trumps, Marcello Gandini Top Trumps, where Joe and I get to choose our favorite Gandini. Concept car, our favorite Gandini production car, and our favorite Gandini wildcard. So, Joe,

Joe Simpson:

What's first concept car.

Drew Smith:

concept car.

Joe Simpson:

Okay. Uh, I'm really struggling and I have until this moment been trying to decide which one, but I'm going to go for the Stratos Zero, the Lancia. The brown one, the one that to some people might look like a wedge of cheese. It's a very very very obvious one, but you know, if you've seen those pictures of it being driven through the streets of Turin, you will know exactly why I have chosen that car.

Drew Smith:

Okay, I mean, there is a lot to love about the Stratos. Like, it is a sheer, Like a piece of sheer what the fuckery. Like you just look at it and you're like, how does that even work? Oh, walk up the hood to get into it. And then you, and then you realize that it's got like a dinky little, you know, Lancia v4 in the back. I think it's a V4, isn't it?

Joe Simpson:

I believe so, yes, yeah,

Drew Smith:

mean, this was one of the funny things

Joe Simpson:

I'm now

Drew Smith:

like a lot Gandini's concept designs like, you didn't even really care what was in it engine wise because you were

Joe Simpson:

No.

Drew Smith:

just like, where is this from? It should have like a proton jet.

Joe Simpson:

Um, go on then. How are you going to top trump me?

Drew Smith:

Oh, so I started off by looking at the Uh, Karin, no, the I was looking at the Camargue and then I was looking at the Tundra and I'm like, this theme got rolled out quite a few times, it?

Joe Simpson:

There's a, there's a theme that happened with, uh, not just Gandini. I think it was,

Drew Smith:

It, it felt it reached its peak and I don't know which order, I think the Sibilo was not the last, but it felt like that that theme reached its absolute peak with the Sibilo, which is the, the, the strange brown Lancia with the frosted brown glass. It, it looks, actually I'm going to say this, it looks like a polished turd, but in the best possible way. Like it is such strange car. Um, But I decided not to go down that path because there were just sort of too many of them. And I realized that Gandini actually designed the Apple car that Apple never designed. The Lamborghini Bravo. It is such a beautifully, pure, wonderfully geometric little thing. Like there's no muss, no fuss. Extremely stripped back and a little bit like you seeing images of the Stratos Zero being driven down the streets. I seem to remember on YouTube, I'll see if I can find it and cut it into the video. There's footage of the Bravo driving through kind of, you know, mist enveloped elm trees some rural part of Italy. And, you know, it's just kind of one of those images you see it and you're like,

Joe Simpson:

Um,

Drew Smith:

yeah. So here's the thing. You look at the Bravo, right? And it, it's a 1974 car. It is so, so pure That if somebody came out with it today, you'd be like,

Joe Simpson:

Oh.

Drew Smith:

Okay. I mean, the wheels kind of give it away a little bit, but

Joe Simpson:

Yeah, and I, but I think this is a good point, though, Drew, uh, like, we have to say, it's a statement of bleeding obvious, but both Gandini and, um, Giugiaro, I think, they, what they did, particularly in the 70s, is I don't know what I'm trying to think of a comparison to another industry, but they basically, they didn't just put car design on the map. They completely reinvented what we thought you could do with cars and car design, and they made particularly in the concepts, but there are, as we're about to talk about, plenty of production cars, I think that also just, we don't get close to the ingenuity, the innovation, even though it's such a buzzword these days, or the kind of, you know, there's sort of the originality.

Drew Smith:

Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A hundred percent.

Joe Simpson:

So, you know, it really, those two figures I think really changed the face of car design over a couple of decades. Um, and, and really made it a thing and probably were responsible for many boyhood dreams of becoming a car designer, I think.

Drew Smith:

Something really interesting in what you've just said there. Um, before we move on to the production cars, there's a great little interview with Chris Bangle that was conducted by Car Design News, James McLaughlin

Joe Simpson:

Mm, yeah,

Drew Smith:

At the Geneva Motor Show, and yeah, they were talking about, or Chris was talking about how once upon a time, and he was referring to Patrick Lequement and the idea of the mono volume and how, when Patrick was leading design at, at, at, at Renault, Patrick essentially took the mono volume into pretty much every category possible. And people were like, Oh, that's cool. Huh. That's interesting. I hadn't thought about that. And Chris is like, if you try and do that these days, people are going to say,"Hmm, that's weird. That's so strange." And yet none of Gandini's cars would have existed in, in the modern context because everybody'd be like, that's, that's, that's weird. That's really, really weird. Um, speaking of weird, I will go next with my production car.

Joe Simpson:

Go on

Drew Smith:

Um, because it's, it's a weird choice. Um, and I'm going to kind of provide some context for this by saying, um, not that long ago, I contributed a, um, a little bit to an article that Sam Livingstone about, uh, rightness or just rightness

Joe Simpson:

Oh yeah, right car design. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

one of the things that I said was just right car design is something that, that I feel right. There's a, there's a physical sort of manifestation in my body that makes me kind of go,

Joe Simpson:

It's a gut reaction.

Drew Smith:

There's a, there's a real gut reaction to it. Um, Now, I may have undone myself a little bit with this choice because there are people that will probably claim that it's not a great piece of just right car design, but for me every time I look at a Lamborghini Espada I get a very strange feeling in my lower body. Like, it is just so

Joe Simpson:

Just talk about the Espada.

Drew Smith:

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I'm

Joe Simpson:

Not the feelings in your body. We don't, people don't need to know about them.

Drew Smith:

Inside voice, Drew.

Joe Simpson:

Sorry. Tit tittering.

Drew Smith:

Just, just look at it. Look at it. I mean, as a way to package a V12 and four big seats and a shitload of glass. Like, it is just

Joe Simpson:

And there was this thing as well with glass and the, the, the technology that was, uh, of the time and that they were exploring because the concept car nearly chose, I nearly chose the Marzal because the Marzal had like such a lasting impact on me. The first time I saw it, I can still deeply remember the first time I saw it. And.

Drew Smith:

Marzal.

Joe Simpson:

I'm jealous, but I've always, since then, I've had a thing for cars that had basically a window line that kind of ran below the belt line. And I think the exploration of glass and the idea of being able to see the people in the vehicle and the people being able to see the road is kind of incredible. And I think, you know, the, I would say that the Espada, you know, As you say, for me, it's all about that, that sort of, um, glass house volume. It's, it's incredible.

Drew Smith:

And to come back to that idea of like, cars are things in which we want to see ourselves. Like the Espada is something that I look at and, and I've never been in one, but I've, I've seen people drive them and It's almost, I almost imagine it's like sitting in a low slung Range Rover. And, and you're just crossing continents in a glass house. And there's something fundamentally very appealing about that. Anyway, over to you, production car.

Joe Simpson:

Um, right. Um, can I have

Drew Smith:

looking up the Wikipedia page.

Joe Simpson:

Um, no, I, I have, I have got various things open in the background. I'm just trying to decide. I, the thing is I wanted to talk about the Garmisch which isn't, which is not a production Gandini design. Um,

Drew Smith:

sorry. You lose.

Joe Simpson:

Uh, I actually then was going to choose the E12 5 series.

Drew Smith:

Oh yeah. Yep. Yeah. Okay.

Joe Simpson:

I wanted to talk about the Garmisch, but I won't because you've just told me I can't, but the translation of BMW obviously started out with, you know, the 2002, that's the kind of, I suppose, the archetype BMW and this, the way that BMW ness in those sort of early days was transferred into a larger format vehicle and, uh, developed with that, you know, the nose, the Hofmeister kink, the proportion of the, again, for me, a lot of it's about glass, the glass house to the body. And then the way that I don't know the Five Series, it just sort of, I mean, what will be at now, the sort of eighth generation Five Series. I think it's such a kind of like a landmark car. Um, and yeah, I've always wanted a E12 Five Series. So, um, Yeah, I think, for me, it's, it's that one. Even though I'm picking really obvious choices.

Drew Smith:

I don't know. I mean, I'm, I'm, I mean, there may be a lot of people out there that wouldn't know that the E12 was designed by Gandini and, and, and I think, as you say,

Joe Simpson:

would just puse

Drew Smith:

a Countach

Joe Simpson:

I was just gonna say a Countach or a Miura would the, you know, the obvious ones. But, um, I nearly went for the Renault, the, the kind of the Renault Five, but we talked about it last

Drew Smith:

But only as a Baccara

Joe Simpson:

that's, um, yeah,

Drew Smith:

Um, all right. Wild card, Joe.

Joe Simpson:

Uh, wildcard for me, it's a really easy one. It's the Renault Magnum. Um, I, Absolutely love the Renault Magnum. It's my favorite truck of all time. It was my, it was my favorite truck for a long time before I even found out it was a Gandini design. I remember being in France as a kid in the back of my dad's Volkswagen Golf and seeing one of these for the first time and just being like, Oh my God, what is that? And what I love about the Magnum is That it's like a piece of architecture and some people know I started out in architecture and it's just so It's so decisive it's so clear and I think the thing that I really love about it is it's got Enormous presence, and yet, I've always found it to have this sort of level of approachability. If we talk about a character, it's not a scary truck, it's just a incredibly imposing, confident truck. And, I, I love it.

Drew Smith:

I, so, so those sorts of cab over trucks when I was a kid in Australia were absolutely not the norm. Right. So it was, we were sort of like Max and Kenworth's

Joe Simpson:

Right, yeah. With the hood out front.

Drew Smith:

thing. Yeah. And I, a little bit like you, I, the first time I ever went to Europe and seeing European trucks and seeing what I now know is the Magnum, uh, yeah, it was a, it's a deeply impressive piece of design, absolutely stunning. Um, okay.

Joe Simpson:

What's yours?

Drew Smith:

got two later career choices here. Um, and I'm struggling to decide. Um, between the Quattroporte 4 and the Shamal and

Joe Simpson:

like this is a conversation you need Owen Ready in.

Drew Smith:

I think I'm going to go with the Shamal just because it's like, I think most people can agree that if you spend long enough looking at a Quattroporte, uh, you're like, yeah, okay. Like I, I, I get this. It there's, there's a lot of subtlety to it. There is zero subtlety to the Shamal. It's just like Gandini grabbed his bag of tricks and went

Joe Simpson:

bang!

Drew Smith:

And it's it's mental like it is You know from like whacking a lambo arch on it To the little spoiler at the base of the windshield Uh, the way the projector beams have been kind of sectioned off by a plastic cover from, you know, the, the, the high beams, I'm guessing they are, but behind they're just the same lens. Like,

Joe Simpson:

Yes!

Drew Smith:

has this real sense of, we've not got a lot of money

Joe Simpson:

Money!

Drew Smith:

with, how can we make this thing work? And I think, you know, I just think it shows the versatility of the man. Do you reckon, do you reckon

Joe Simpson:

Still got that real wheel arch as well.

Drew Smith:

like he just, you know, like a brief came in and they gave him the package and he just like drew the, the, the slash and then handed it to the understudies and said, okay, like you fill in the gaps.

Joe Simpson:

I feel there's some stuff if, if anyone is, um, uh, not read, uh, Patrick Lequement's book, the, uh, no, he's written a couple now, but the, the blue one, um, is it Design in Mind? Um, anyway, the one where he talks largely about his kind of career at Renault. He doesn't name people by name, but I know he has tremendous respect for Gandini, but I think there are points which he references, probably which would have coincided with later in Gandini's career, where he's kind of like irritation at the sort of almost regurgitation of ideas, uh, that we've previously seen becomes a bit, you know, a bit clear.

Drew Smith:

Yeah. And, and let me be clear, like

Joe Simpson:

be a bit going on here.

Drew Smith:

the Shamal is, Is, is, is not a classically pretty car. I'd go so far as to say it is, it is not a pretty car, but it's a very interesting example of late Gandini oeuvre, shall we say. Um,

Joe Simpson:

a, um, a look into our kind of respective weird brains here, listeners and viewers. feel like it's a very Drew Smith choice. Um,

Drew Smith:

on that note, shall we talk about knobs or shall we talk about the BMW

Joe Simpson:

Can talk about BMW?

Drew Smith:

Yes.

Joe Simpson:

Can we talk about BMW? Because I want to do a kind of, uh, a real shoehorn of a segue from Gandini into the BMW Neue Klasse X, which I

Drew Smith:

It's all about the Garmisch.

Joe Simpson:

for. It is all about the Garmisch. Um, I feel like people will send me hate mail and stuff for this, but one of the things that I can see BMW doing, and we talked about the Neue Klasse, uh, sedan. Um, when that was shown in Munich last

Drew Smith:

Munich, yeah.

Joe Simpson:

and how we both felt this was kind of like a signs of life at BMW and some yes, okay, we could be critical and say there's some clumsy bits, but there's also some very good bits, um, and a real exploration of, of kind of some new proportions and kind of how you keep BMW ness in the electric age. Um, one of the things that was, Uh, clear on that car was at BMW working on this new face. BMW's face has been the, uh, source of, shall we say a bit of, um, discussion? Uh, debate. Um, yes. Uh, reference to various sort of. animals, um, with the growth of the, uh, the twin kidneys, um, and, you know, the abandonment of the kind of round lights and I think a lot of people have been very unhappy with that. And BMW obviously trying to have obviously been trying to develop things and move things on for the digital age. I felt that the the digital bar with the lamps and the kidneys was relatively successful on the Neue Klasse. And I think what's interesting about the Neue Klasse X, this new SUV concept, which if anyone hasn't seen it, it's essentially like a, uh, electric Neue Klasse X3, is that they developed the face. I feel that this is closer to production than the sedan was and they are, they have downsized the kidneys. They're still quite prominent, they're now very upright, they're vertical rather than horizontal, and they're flanked by a pair of digital light units. And I feel that, and I know people will disagree with me, that it's actually done quite successfully. Cover up the lower area. If you look at this car head on, the lower, the lower is, um, yeah, not helping. But that upper, mask of the face, I feel is actually getting to something that is quite interesting as a kind of new BMW identity. And I felt that maybe they'd been looking a bit at the Garmisch because what happens there is you have the kidneys uh, in a kind of, again, quite architectural way, almost puncturing through the face, you have the kind of shark nose angle nose, and then you have, and it was one of the, you know, only BMWs at the time, interesting Gandini's sort of exploration of it, where they had already set the dye with the round lamps, um, and he, and he put the lamp projectors behind this, um, these kind of fairings, these plastic fairings, a bit like, almost like a Citroen, um, SM. Um, and I think that BMW are kind of, riffing off that a bit here for their new face. And I, I would say from my perspective, it's actually quite successful. It looks like a BMW. It looks new. It's it's I, but it's also distinct and identifiable. I want to ask what you think as well, but the other thing I would like to say about it is that I really appreciate the way they are obviously really working with their glass house and going away from the ever smaller, tiny, tiny, uh, gunslit glass turret on top of a massively thick body. And we saw on the Vision sedan that there was this visual break at the belt line and the, the, the glass went under it. We all sort of thought, and that's, that's very concept y cause you can't actually drop a window glass with that setup. So how will they do that? Well, I think here they're showing us what they're going to do. They just, they sort of visually, the the glass house is biting into the body side, but it's done in quite a sort of, I think, relatively refined way. And as a result, we get quite a big, airy glass house and you can see from the pictures inside it really helps in terms of the feeling that obviously BMW, I think, want to create on board these new Neue Klasse vehicles, which is of a kind of like airy lightness. And I I'm here for that. I think we need that in car design, and especially in the context of ever harder crash regulation, where it's harder and harder to do bigger areas of glass and slim pillars they should be applauded for trying this. But what do you think?

Drew Smith:

So the first thing that came to mind when I was looking at the, the, the press images in, and there was a, there was a profile pic was that it took me back to the first generation X5, the E53, um, which was BMW's first sports activity vehicle. It was not an SUV. It was an SAV.

Joe Simpson:

They still refer to them as that. Mm

Drew Smith:

Precisely because of the volume of glass it lends, particularly against a backdrop of ever decreasing glass to body ratio, it lends this incredible sense of modernity. And I dropped in, I dropped in a, in, in our message last night, an image of Philip Johnson's glass house. And that's what this car feels like as a result. It's just like, it's, it's this breath of fresh air. You just go, Oh, as long as you don't look at the lower front on. On, on, on the front, I, one of the things that occurs to me is whether uh, and I, I don't know, now that I'm about to say it, I'm not sure how this would work strategically, but because the horizontal configuration that they have on the Neue Klasse sedan and iVision Dee where they developed a little bit further, it suits a BMW sedan format so well,

Joe Simpson:

Mm hmm.

Drew Smith:

I'm, I'm wondering whether actually the, the, the teeth, the vertical kidneys become a hallmark for the SUVs and it would just be an interesting way of, of, of delineating the,

Joe Simpson:

vehicle types.

Drew Smith:

the different vehicle types. The most interesting thing for me though is the interior. Um, first of all, the color and material. Uh, choices on the interior, uh, absolutely delightful. Um, I, I, I enormously dislike screens, but I have to say the way they've sort of played with different perceptions of cowl height, um, across the, the, the IP surfaces is, is really, really interesting. And they've integrated that full width um,

Joe Simpson:

setup that we talked about in the Neue Klasse where it's a projected, I think it's a Continental technology and it's a slim projection, basically at the base of the screen that goes from pillar to pillar.

Drew Smith:

But the real reason I love the interior is because they've finally made in car cushions that don't look gack.

Joe Simpson:

Ah, yes, because you were

Drew Smith:

really lovely little cushions on the back seat.

Joe Simpson:

because Drew, you were, uh, you were a massive fan of the, uh, cushions that were in the XM, weren't you? Not.

Drew Smith:

Or like the little scrota, is that like plural of scrotum? The little scrota that sit on the headrests of a Maybach? No, no,

Joe Simpson:

Oh, yes, you're a particular fan of those. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

These, these are, these are delightful. I mean, I would quite happily have these cushions in my living room.

Joe Simpson:

Mm Hmm. Yeah, I would, I would completely concur the current material is great. Uh, people who know me know I'm a bit of a fan of orange. Uh, so for me, it's, you know, it's a kind of home run. It's orange and white. Yep. I'll take that. Um, but I really, yes, I, I love this kind of like development of this, um, kind of chord and this, um, This kind of like graphic that's kind of woven into it and the use of fundamentally just joyful colors. It was yellow in the sedan It's orange here They've been they've been really doing quite a good job Anyway, I think if you've been in an ix say what you like about the exterior the interior is extremely good and the color material options available in that car are really really Very progressive but still feel very premium let's see what the production car is like. I'm curious to see how this, uh, screen setup, um, transitions to, uh, to production and just how close or not this might be to a production car, certainly in silhouette, to me, it feels very close.

Drew Smith:

And will the window switches feel better than a Dacia's? We'll find

Joe Simpson:

Million dollar question. Yes.

Drew Smith:

Speaking of switches, shall we talk about, uh, Euro NCAP's um, well, it's not really a mandate, is it? It's, it's, it's, it's an enticement to manufacturers to put more physical controls back into their vehicles.

Joe Simpson:

Yes. so for those who aren't, nerding out on the, the latest news, what this was, was a urine cup announcing that, come 2026, if you don't have physical controls for, the, now the horn, the indicators, the hazard switch, the. What was it? The, I think it was the defogger. There were five things that they mandated the horn oh, and the, and then the gear shifter, um, that you would lose a star on the official, uh, Euro NCAP crash rating, which goes up to five stars, which obviously most modern cars are achieving five stars on. I think this follows on from how Euro NCAP, uh, who are obviously there to kind of try to drive all manufacturers and Europe's roads towards safer cars, fewer deaths, fewer injuries started out with passive crash testing. How, how did the car behave in various crash scenarios? Um, you know, offset barriers, side impact, side pole, and then have migrated so that the rating is made up of uh, the physical crash, uh, pedestrian impact, um, like child rear seat safety. And then importantly, the ADAS systems and they do assessment of the ADAS systems. So now they're moving towards physical controls. There's obviously recognition that, you know, um, people are getting distracted in cars. People are taking their eyes off the road. Uh, they don't want that to happen. And so the mandate to put back in some kind of physical controls for these things. What's your take?

Drew Smith:

So I've just written a, an article, uh, inspired by this, uh, which will be coming out in the next edition of Interior Motives, I believe, uh, and we'll also, uh, there'll be a slightly longer version of the article coming up on Car Design News as well. And rather than addressing, I guess, the safe, the specific safety aspects, which for me is sort of a no brainer. And, I think there's also an open question as to how, how tough. This incentive is and how much change it will actually drive, but my reflection for interior motives really centered on what we lost when we took buttons away. And I know that there are you know, good reasons IE cost, um, for, uh, centralizing everything on a, on a screen, right? There's, there's no doubt that it's cheaper to engineer one, um, BFS, uh, than it is to, to engineer a whole, whole bunch of buttons. But in that, in taking away things that we can turn, things that we can push, things that we can pull we've taken away, uh, a channel for brand communication, essentially, you know, one of the canonical examples for me of this is the seat control in the W140 and the R129 Mercedes. And the fact that the, the memory buttons, so memory positions, one, two, and three have a different radius on them to the memory set button so you can feel the difference just with your fingers, The memory set button is also a different color. You know, it's, it's, it's a green color compared to the, to the black of all the other ones. And that, that says so much about how Mercedes at that point in time thought about the relationship between their customer and their car. Um, there's a lot of character that can be delivered through haptic interfaces that you just don't get through, through this. And yeah, you know, like Porsche might put some little sort of vibrating motor behind, uh, Panel of glossy black plastic, but it's, it's, it's not the same as, you know, the, the, the rubbery knobs that sat on the binnacle of a, of a 928, for example, um, and so, yeah, I, I, I'd love to see this as an opportunity to bring some of that haptic character back to interiors, because especially as the powertrain becomes increasingly commoditized, you know, as, as As Sergio Marchionne said in Confessions of a Capital Junkie, like the thing that customers care about is the in vehicle experience. Like, how do you make that, how do you make that more sensory?

Joe Simpson:

I think what you're highlighting is that it's a, it's a fundamentally important part of car design, which we are. sort of throwing away. If car design is a fundamental level about creating meaning, um, beyond the kind of basic functionality. And a lot of what Chris Bangle talks about in terms of the character of the object, much of that occurs through the way that when you interact with something. It behaves and then how you feel. And I, I would take two examples. One would be the way that Audi in the sort of, for the late nineties and then into the sort of, um, two thousands drove the, drove up the premium perception of its cars, almost entirely through perceived quality, which largely was to do with the way the interior is put together, but in no small part was to do with the way that. When, what happened when you pressed or turned something. So the way that, you know, Audi, I think it might've been Saab that did it first, but Audi with the damped cup holders. The way that when you pressed a cup holder and it popped out of the dashboard and then sort of unfolded and then like slowed itself and turned. Yeah.

Drew Smith:

nine five cup holder,

Joe Simpson:

The 95 cup holder, the best cup holder ever invented, um, or the way that, you know, Audi's, the way that they had knobs and it was the fact that they used knurled aluminium or kind of like a cream finish and it felt cold. That was one thing. But then when you turn them, it didn't just spin in this kind of like, cheap way. It was damned. It was notched. The way you're interacting with it felt precise and that drove the perceived quality. The other example I give is Porsche and Porsche, I think famously, if anyone has driven a Porsche will immediately know this. Porsches have kind of longstanding appeal largely because of the way they drive. And the way they drive is typically sort of, uh, sort of characterized as the engine, the sound, the response, the acceleration, the handling, the steering. But it's also.

Drew Smith:

the

Joe Simpson:

The way that the door opens, the way that the indicators and the control weights, the way that, you know, in the more modern ones, even the, the, the switches on the steering wheel for adjusting the setting, the way that they move and function, Porsches have this consistency of control and interaction, which makes the thing, uh, a delight to interact with and use. Everything is, is, is sort of weighted and metered just so, and it's kind of all choreographed together. Um, so I think, I think those are great examples of what you're saying.

Drew Smith:

I, I was amazed to note the, the, the consistency in, I'm going to use the word viscosity may not be the right term. Um, uh, and feel of the indicator stalk in my nine to eight and my dad's KN it's just like. This is delightful. Um, so yes, look, I, I, I think there is, you know, and brands, brands built Whether, whether consciously or not, there was so much equity in the, the various types of haptic controls that, that brands had developed over time. And, and I think, you know, the, it feels like the only one I can think of now that, that still really exists that has this kind of cultural resonance is the organ stop on a Rolls

Joe Simpson:

yeah, on the Bentley.

Drew Smith:

for, for, for controlling the vent. So I think there's, there's an interesting opportunity here for. Sort of interior designers and, and, and control designers and HMI designers to start thinking, Oh, how do we start to build some of that character back in because there's, there's no character in these, um,

Joe Simpson:

think that there's a, there's a can of caveat around it, which sits around. We, we got here because of the, the number of functions and things that, need to be controlled now, can't be done through knobs and buttons and dials.

Drew Smith:

okay. I'm going to call bullshit on that. I'm going to call bullshit on that because yeah, well, because I'm not saying like, let's go back to the days of the E38 where it looked like somebody literally just tipped a button, a bucket of buttons on, on the dashboard. But I, I find it fascinating that Hyundai and Hyundai motor group, it seems has doubled down on a core set of hard controls. Um, certainly in the Kia vehicles. And, and I know this is definitely a case in the Ioniq 5 because, because they're, they're putting more buttons back in And, and this is the other point that I make in the article, buttons make the value of the vehicle that we have paid for legible. It, it makes the value of the vehicle more easily accessible. If we can see them, if we can push them, if we can interact with them, like I'm, I'm, I'm getting what I paid for. And so I, it, I'm not saying let's, let's go back to the old days. I am saying like, what is, what is a suite of hard controls that we can own and develop our own unique haptic identity around? Yep.

Joe Simpson:

trying to raise the issue of, I think we're in the world a bit like original iDrive, where when iDrive came in, And the reason for iDrive was famous, it was like that E38 was the tipping point. It's like, we can't put more buttons on the dashboard. There's too many things to control. And you went to the, the round controller and I think it had one button next to it. And it was criticized, but it was a new interaction model. And then over time, BMW added shortcuts and extra buttons around it. And now they have, I think, actually on that sort of, uh, In things like the five series. And so if they have more, and I think they were in that, we're in that period now where we've gone to screens and we've taken the buttons away and I think some brands. Are starting to already put them back. I think there's questions around what what are the most obvious choices for hard buttons knobs? What do you need and then and then the point that you're trying to make which is a really important one is how do you? Really think about how that works how that feels how that represents your brand How can they all sing together and in the way that someone's operating the vehicle feel consistently consistently and of your brand? I think that's the opportunity really Pointing out, but I don't think it's quite as easy as some people are suggesting, and I'm not entirely sure that the Euro NCAT way is, as you have highlighted, I'm not entirely sure it's where it's getting us

Drew Smith:

Yeah.

Joe Simpson:

in, in, in the kind of first instances.

Drew Smith:

final point on this thing. The, uh, Vision Neue Klasse X has no iDrive controller. Right,

Joe Simpson:

Interesting.

Drew Smith:

final topic. Uh, this is audience participation from the much beloved Michael Panofsky. And his question was actually, I'm going to have to look it up. Um, Michael Panofsky.

Joe Simpson:

to get a very, uh, Ha

Drew Smith:

The best gas station food you have ever had.

Joe Simpson:

ha ha ha. Um, okay, um, In the UK, There is a Well, I mean, they have lost it already, haven't I? Hehehehe. True, you win.

Drew Smith:

right, this podcast is over.

Joe Simpson:

Fair. Right. There's a There's a services, uh, in Cumbria in the Lake District, just on your way on, almost on the Scottish border called, uh, Teabay as you head on the west side of the country up through the, yeah, the, the Lake, very beautiful area. Um, and it is basically an independently run, um, service station and it sits in the most beautiful environment. And basically it's a kind of farm shop and service station and you can get the most amazing. meat pies and the most amazing sort of butchered, uh, you know, I think it's, I don't think it's on site, but you know, sort of like hand butchered independent, uh, meat of your choice. And it's, when I used to live in the UK, whenever I went to Scotland where I used to live, It was kind of like, where are you going in Scotland? It's like, do you want to go at one side of the country or do you want to go at the other? I always went that way so I could stop there because it was wonderful. And there was a moment I once stopped on the way back where there's, they have this enormous, on one side, on the south side carriageway, they have this enormous kind of picture window. It's about as wide as, as like twice as wide as my house. And you look out over this kind

Drew Smith:

Looks out over a pond

Joe Simpson:

Yeah, a pond and then like a kind of mountain and it's just like, sit there, eat some, you know, cow that's probably been wandering around the field next door, you know, kind of a few months earlier, it's just, it's fantastic. So that's, that's my, well, there's probably others in Italy and things that I can think of, but that's, that's the one that come to mind.

Drew Smith:

So, so I, um, have enjoyed a couple of extremely good full English breakfasts at T Bay services on drives back from, uh, is it back from Scotland? Yeah, no, up to Scotland back.

Joe Simpson:

it's on both sides of the carriageway, so you can, uh, yeah,

Drew Smith:

Could have been both. So for me, um, I had to think about this one. Um, There was a time when I was living in Germany and I was working for a little design strategy consultancy outside, um, Frankfurt called Carmen. And we drove to the Geneva motor show, um, one year and we stopped at a services. I going to say it was in Switzerland, maybe not. Anyway, it was a Marche. And. I don't know if Marché is still at this level, but I remember walking into the services and there being just a cornucopia of, like, beautiful, freshly cooked food, juices in cups set into beds of ice. Uh, you could get a steak au poivre avec frites. Which was actually really like cook, cook fresh right there

Joe Simpson:

it wasn't in France? I suppose, you know, if you'd be coming from Germany, why would you be in France if you're going to Switzerland? Mm.

Drew Smith:

Anyway, um, the reason I thought this question was super, super interesting was because obviously you have a bunch of car companies who are talking about creating their own. Charging stations. You have the really interesting question of what happens to the retail footprint of oil majors over

Joe Simpson:

Mm.

Drew Smith:

with these spaces. And I think coming to the question of the car manufacturers owning these sorts of spaces. I mean, this is the kind of experience that historically has been. You know, it's a cost that's been externalized by car manufacturers. And all of a sudden they're like, Oh, actually we want to control this experience. Now I have no personal experience with how Porsche is doing it. I think Audi is doing it in some places. Uh, Mercedes Benz has talked about wanting to do it. Um, I mean, I

Joe Simpson:

And then,

Drew Smith:

where you're just kind of like standing in a scabby back lot somewhere going. Hmm,

Joe Simpson:

I hope I'm not getting mugged in a minute.

Drew Smith:

or, or in the Calabasas mall, wondering if I was going to see a Kardashian, did not happen. Um, but it, it does raise a really interesting question as, as to, okay. Like how, if you're a car maker, like how are you going to brand this channel and how are you going to deliver that experience?

Joe Simpson:

I tell you what, if Audi want to set up a restaurant

Drew Smith:

Oh,

Joe Simpson:

the kind of food they used

Drew Smith:

used

Joe Simpson:

on the press days at motor shows, then as long as you'll let me charge my non Audi vehicle there, I'm stopping there. I'm, I'm, you know, I'm a customer.

Drew Smith:

This is,

Joe Simpson:

Um,

Drew Smith:

is exactly my thought. Like if I could stop in for an early morning, like a Weisswurst pretzel and maybe an alcohol fried polanna, I would be, I'd, I'd be cock a hoop. I mean, Porsche would, Porsche would naturally top it for, for, for folk that are listening that don't know once upon a time when motor shows were actually a thing and

Joe Simpson:

days,

Drew Smith:

Back in, back in the good old days, um, the manufacturers would put on, uh, breakfast, lunch, and drinks. So, typically, the way you wanted your day to run was to start at Audi because you could have beer for breakfast, uh, along with a white sausage and a pretzel. Then you would go to Porsche. And depending on the niceness of the door people at Porsche, you would get in and you would have just an incredible lunch there. And if you couldn't do Porsche, then you'd go to Audi. And if you couldn't do Audi, if you're in,

Joe Simpson:

a cracking. Yeah. They used to do a cracking lunch on the first day, you know?

Drew Smith:

they did. Uh, and if you couldn't do Audi, if you're in Paris, you'd do PSA. Because PSA would actually do a, do a half decent lunch. And then, you always wanted to finish at BMW because they had bottomless verve clique o.

Joe Simpson:

Interspersed with coffee from d Mateo at Volvo

Drew Smith:

Oh, right, yeah, okay. This is not a branded message. Um, yeah, coffee and, and cannellbulla. From, uh, from, from, from Gothenburg's very own Domateo. But I think like when, when Michael asked the question at first, I was like, we're not going to talk about that. And then I thought, actually, this is genius because we are seeing car companies wanting to own more of this space and thinking through it from a customer experience and service design perspective. I imagine is, it's a whole new challenge for car makers who have typically outsourced the customer service aspect of, of, of, of, of their brand.

Joe Simpson:

It's absolutely super interesting for that reason. And I think, as you say, we're in this world where petrol stations, gas stations are actually disappearing, or at least they are in Europe. Um, because the oil majors don't actually make very much money out of selling. Um, gasoline, they make their money in the shop because you go in and you buy two bars of chocolate and a bottle of coke, but your desire to dwell there is, uh, how should we say minimum, uh, minimized and quick. Um, at the same time, Tesla's just moving in, I think, in particularly in the U. S. to the point where its supercharger network really comes into its own and it's going to really start to reap the rewards of having invested in that and, and gain money back from it from the charging experience, from the charging costs that they're going to charge people, but there's no sort of experience built around it. And I think on top of this, if we link it back to the actual vehicle, we're in this race at the moment to make charging faster and faster and faster and faster. And I've talked about this before from my trip across Europe. The new Taycan, you can put, I think, 10 to 80 percent in it in something like 15 minutes. The charge curve is incredible. And we're on this race to make it so that a charge is as quick as filling up with fuel. I think there's an argument here to look at it another way and say, if you have a range of three to 400 miles. You don't want to really, or most people don't want to drive more than 800 miles a day. Um, where are you going to seat or site places where you can charge a car while you stop for lunch? And you actually might be perfectly happy to leave it for 30 or 45 minutes. Um, And I think it's a difficult one because it's many different use cases. You have that thing where everyone's going to just want to stop for lunch and then all the charges are full. But I do think what you're highlighting is, is an opportunity for the brands, if they're clever, to A, make money and B, build an experience around the vehicle, which really starts to extend the brand beyond just the, the hump of metal.

Drew Smith:

Nice. Let's do it. Let's get stuck in. On that note,

Joe Simpson:

go.

Drew Smith:

That's a wrap for episode 17 of looking out the podcast. It's been a delight as per usual to have you with us. Um, we will be back in two weeks with another show. Um, but until then do us a favor, leave us a five star review on Apple podcasts or

Joe Simpson:

getting bolder.

Drew Smith:

or.

Joe Simpson:

it.

Drew Smith:

If you like it, hit the subscribe button on YouTube. I'm trying to remember all the bloody things you're meant to do as a content creator. It's really dull. Um,

Joe Simpson:

We ought to pre record this bit, really.

Drew Smith:

this has been Looking Out The Podcast. My name is Drew Smith.

Joe Simpson:

And my name is Joe Simpson.

Drew Smith:

Oh, this is Drew Smith. Thank you for listening.

Joe Simpson:

What happened there? Did you forget your name?

Drew Smith:

Yeah. Bye!

Joe Simpson:

Oh dear.