‘We kept in mind (while designing) that the Ameo should have 100 percent Volkswagen design DNA.’
Tilo Klumpp, lead designer of VW Ameo reveals what went into designing the tailor-made car for India, which is a perfect fit between the Polo hatchback and the Vento sedan.
Tilo Klumpp led a core team of three designers who began conceiving and designing the Volkswagen Ameo almost 30 months ago. In an exclusive interview with Amit Panday, the lead designer of the compact sedan reveals what went into designing this tailor-made car for India, which is a perfect fit between the Polo hatchback and the Vento sedan.
What was your approach when you sat down to design a car exclusively for the Indian market? Also, what were the crucial design inputs that you received from your colleagues in India and in Germany?
First of all, we got the measurements of the car. "It should be only four metres long," they told us. My boss asked me if I was keen to take up this project and I found it interesting.
Since it had to be a three-box car, I had to think about designing one within the limitation of four metres length. In Europe, we are not used to this size of cars and people there want to have a practical hatchback with a bigger tailgate or a bigger car which should be either limousine-like or a fastback.
I also researched some competitors to learn about the (India) market. At the same time, we got information from our marketing colleagues on details such as what does our ideal customer looks like, how big is his family, where is he working, what are his hobbies and others.
This car (Ameo) is for people who already had a car earlier, they have grown up now and want to own a relatively bigger car. These were the basic highlights that they gave to us.
I, however, had in mind a fastback (continuous slope from the roof to the rear) design because Europeans think that is practical and no customer wants to have a three-box car. This is what I respected because this (Ameo) is a special car for India.
The market research for this car was done in India but there were Indian colleagues in Wolfsburg who were precise in analysing the Indian competitors.
How did you manage to create something absolutely new and yet retain the global design philosophy of Volkswagen AG that involves essential elements like sharp lines, strong wheel arches and others?
We always kept in mind that the car should have 100 percent Volkswagen design DNA. The challenge was the volume; for example, the rear is big in terms of volume and we had to sub-divide it. Therefore, we could use our sharp lines to divide it in surfaces that catch light and the surface below that catches a shadow. This is how we modelled the rear of the car. For example, the rear spoiler on the tailgate is an important element to cut off the height of the car. That, together with the positioning of the tail-lights which really sit on the corners of the car, helped us to create a wide impression of the car.
Some other competitor (in India) cars give an impression of being narrow and high. We wanted to absolutely avoid those proportions.
What was your impression of rival cars in terms of design when you were studying the Indian market?
I studied how the Maruti Swift Dzire and Hyundai Xcent looked at that time. I found their proportions curious – the challenge was if I could do better than them. I think we did a good job in terms of bringing out the best in such given proportions.
On the internet, I found out that there are plenty of other cars in this segment. Even Honda has one (Amaze). We realised that it is an important car for India and the VW range did not have one yet. I believe it’s a right way not to do a fastback for this market for the moment. That’s why we did this three-box car.
Why did you choose to shave off 35mm from the front only to add that much length at the rear?
We had to cut out 35mm of length from the front bumper and add that much at the rear to get the right proportions. This was the main issue because when we started drawing side views at the beginning, we realised that the tailgate was still too short.
In the beginning, we leaned it a bit forward but it was too short and it was not looking like a three-box limousine. That’s why we asked our technicians if we could do something to design better proportions. They then allowed us to shave off a bit of the front end and add that at the rear. Therefore, they added a new foam part in front of the steel beam below the bumper.
When you added 35mm at the rear, did that help in expanding the boot space or it just had to do with the proportions at the rear end?
I would say it helped in both cases. We got a bigger boot, albeit the increase is not too much. In terms of the overall length, this helped us to get a longer rear overhang – a feature typical of a limousine.
What were the design inputs from the Polo that you brought to the Ameo?
We wanted to keep the upper grille in combination with the (front) lighting units. We had to design the bumper as it had to be more prominent and adult than the Polo hatchback. The muscular design bit that you see on the corners of the front bumper (of the Ameo) helps us emphasise the front end.
There were tight deadlines for this project. How did you and your team cope up with that kind of pressure during design stages?
We started with the most important view – the side view – where we find the right proportions. We figured out if it was possible to work with the given proportions of the package from the Polo hatchback and give it a shape of a three-box limousine.
That’s when we realised that we need to step into the design with a C-pillar. The core design team had three designers including me who worked full time in designing this car. In the beginning, a car is always designed on paper and then with the help of CAD specialists, we generate surfaces. We made section lines and defined the volumes. Together with our CAD colleagues, we made a surface model – a closed volume. That was followed by scaling up of the surface model with a 1:1 unit and that’s where we got the first sight of the car. This is where we can check the volumes and the section lines. This is where we start to work with the team of modellers and make suitable changes and add materials including clay.
This entire process takes time. After that process, the car model is scanned again and we go back to the CAD department and it is redone. These are just the initial design stages.
Although you were designing a car with multiple restrictions of length and cost among other things, what were the aspects where you were able to do what you could?
I was free with the front end and the rear end design. The proportions were quite given then once we made the adjustments of 35mm. We wanted to respect the boot capacity, which had to be big.
Personally, I wanted the car’s rear to have a wide impression. That meant that I had to position the tail-lights very far at the opposite sides and connect them with logical lines using our (global) design language.
We explored really different looks and this is where we ended because we always compared it with the Polo hatchback and the bigger Vento. The Ameo had to fit perfectly in between the two.
You say that the Ameo’s roof design is absolutely new and is lowered at the rear end to give that portion the desired flow of a compact sedan. However, at the same time, you also had to maintain appropriate headroom for the rear passengers. How difficult was it to design that combination?
We could not bring the roof line too low for sure as we had to consider the headroom for rear passengers. However, how we treat the angles of the C-pillar is the job of a designer. How steep are the angles for the C-pillar, how long are the transitions, how long is the diagonal line and how big is the radius that makes the connection to the roof and to the boot – these are always big design issues for a limousine. These also are the areas where we are free to decide what looks best. In this case, we have a good combination which is quite elegant and offers enough length for the boot.
How did senior management at Volkswagen Germany react when they saw the final product?
They were very satisfied and confident with the car. The Ameo package fixed all the parameters that we were looking for; primarily that it is more than the Polo hatchback and less than the Vento sedan.
Now that you have designed a car tailored for India, do you think it is difficult to make one for this market or easier than the European counterparts?
I would say that it is tougher to design a car like this. As I said, we have to respect the package (given limitations), overall length, the size of the wheels and we have to build around it a nice volume and divide the same in the right proportions.
INTERVIEW: Michael Mayer, director, Volkswagen India on what went into developing the Ameo
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