Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler Group, has changed the design philosophy of Mercedes-Benz and shaped the face of the brand with forward-looking models. In this interview, he talks about the inspiration for the show car VISION AVTR, the luxury concept of the future and the combination of sustainable mobility and exceptional design.
Mr. Wagener, what inspirations from the AVATAR films can be found in the VISION AVTR?
For me, it was above all the very broad outlook for a sustainable future. The world of AVATAR is a cosmos full of new shapes and colors, and such inspirations are inherently inspiring for designers. Just think of all the extraordinary environments, life forms and also the culture of the the indigenous inhabitants Na’vi. The world of Pandora is closely related to our design philosophy of sensual purity and the bipolarity of our brands of intelligence and emotion. The Na'vi as highly intelligent living beings have developed fascinating, even adventurous forms of transportation. AVATAR is also a film in which mobility and dimensions play a central role and the connection of humans with nature was of course a great inspiration for us.
We have also placed a strong focus on organic materials and functions that are reminiscent of organisms. The transparent doors, for example, open upwards. Together with the flaps on the back of the vehicle they make the show car appear light. The interior acts like a nest or a cocoon that protects passengers. Here we only used organic or vegan materials. The center console symbolizes the Tree of Souls, the holiest place of the Na'vi. It extends dramatically to the A-pillar and creates its roof structure, which gently encloses the passengers in the back seat like a cocoon. The headrest of the rear seat is stretched forward so far that it develops into the headrest of the front seat. Everything is connected to everything.
Which central motif stands for the design?
The world in harmony and symbiosis with nature are our guiding principles. We designed the show car as a holistic system. Everything can be changed, and at the same time has an impact on the whole organism – or the car. Even the outer shape reflects this. It is still clearly recognizable as an automobile, but with many references to natural beings. We wanted to design a car that could connect seamlessly with its passengers. The user experience as a central element is comparable to a symbiotic organism. Our design philosophy of sensual purity is always the guiding principle – our aesthetic soul, so to speak. Another inspiration from the AVATAR sequels is the strong focus on the family. Our VISION AVTR adapts to the needs of a family as a whole, but also to the needs of each individual member. It recognizes each passenger by touching a hand. Another example is the haptic seats, which can record vital data, such as measuring the driver's breathing and adjusting the environment to the emotional state or even the stress level of the driver.
How did the design process differ from other show cars and vehicles?
We started the design process from the experience and consciously put the perception and needs of the passengers at the center of our design process. Our goal was to create a car that prolongs the perception of its passengers. We also wanted to create an immersive experience space where passengers connect with each other, with the vehicle and the surrounding area in a unique way. That is why we have worked our way in this vehicle from the inside out for the first time.
How does the VISION AVTR prolong the senses?
Passengers are fused across the senses with their ergonomic vehicle and can use various intuitive functions via projections on the palm of their hands. But passengers also perceive their environment completely anew via displays. The change of perspective is unique, for example, a bird's view of its environment is possible and the world is perceptible from a great height. In addition, each individual passenger is connected to the other occupants. The car measures the vital signs of the occupants, adjusts the lighting mood and, if the children are excited in the back seats, can display the children’s respiration to the seats of the parents to inform them about their mood.
Is luxury still relevant in the distant future and if so, in what form?
Luxury is sensuality and the show car pushes sensuality to the extreme, because it makes it possible to feel, see and hear the surroundings in a way that has never been thought possible before. The vehicle exceeds all expectations with intelligently networked and easy-to-use assistance environments, thus achieving maximum comfort. The spacious interior allows for a new way of moving around, even of life. Design is crucial to turn technology that some might find cold or purely efficiency-driven into a desirable and emotional experience. This luxury is timeless. It also enables progress, drives innovation and creates sustainable values. Our VISION AVTR is the pinnacle of these efforts and thus the redefinition of sustainable modern luxury.