Martin Uhlarik: It’s a designer’s job to channel concept through the production process

by Mayank Dhingra & Nikhil Bhatia 21 Aug 2022


In a time where software often calls the shots with hardware, Tata Motors’ Global Design Head, Martin Uhlarik, says vehicle designers have an all-encompassing responsibility from styling through to production.

With new-age cars becoming even more radical in their styling, what ends up in the customer’s front porch might be markedly different from what was first showcased as the vehicle designer’s intent in terms of styling.

That’s because modern-day manufacturing processes, aided by software technologies and simulation tools today allow for even the most complex shapes to get productionised as they are also evaluated for their manufacturability throughout the development process.

So, does this mean in the race to market, a designer’s first rendition of a concept gets watered down at the altar of production?

According to Tata Motors’ global design head Martin Uhlarik, “It is the design team’s objective and responsibility to channel the design through the entire process of productionising it, and that includes a lot of stresses on costs, feasibility, and manufacturability.”

“In the end, it’s the designer’s job to make it happen by working closely with the engineers and suppliers. Everything is possible, but one has to sweat the details,” he added in a recent interview with Autocar India.

Uhlarik hinted that while Tata Motors’ recently-showcased Curvv Concept is manufacturable by up to 90 percent, the more evocative Avinya holds a manufacturing feasibility of 80-85 percent.

“Designers have to design responsibly, and while they have to make something with a wow factor – making a concept beautiful, attractive and aspirational – the focus, at the same time, is to design with a certain level of thought behind it in the sense that it has to be producible,” Uhlarik remarked.

Commending the Tata Motors design team for its solid track record of converting concepts into production-ready cars, Uhlarik cited examples of the Nexon, Punch and Harrier, which have all seamlessly evolved from radical-looking concepts into equally futuristic production-ready forms.

With growing consumer and industry awareness about climate change and the need to aim for carbon-neutrality as a future goal, Uhlarik said that sustainability is not just a trend but it’s actually the future. “We have global climate targets which translate into government legislation, before eventually turning into corporate responsibilities. For us at Tata Motors, sustainability is a responsibility,” he pointed out.

“While a vehicle concept is a free-thinking lab full of ideas, but all of those ideas have to translate into some sort of production-ready elements that have to be sustainable as well,” he added. Uhlarik also took cognisance of the fact that like as is the case with vehicle electrification, sustainable materials too initially would be expensive but as they become more mainstream, their costs would come down.

“What we will probably see is companies offering sustainable materials as optional packages, which would be available at a higher price. There are people are willing to pay the price for it,” Uhlarik signed off on a pragmatic note.

 


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