As Vauxhall approach 110 years of car manufacturing, I sat down with Mark Adams, Vice President of Design to talk making cars and the new 'Made In England' video, shot by stylist Katy England.
What's the concept for the Made in England video, and how did it come about?
We've been sponsoring this to try and get into the youth culture, the pulse of the youth. We've been thinking about how we can use that going forwards and how that would influence design. For my team, the opportunity to mix with the people, you can really pick up a lot of things. We're exploring how we can get a deeper understanding of what's happening so we can build a Vauxhall that's more relevant going forward.
We have great products and we want to make sure that people are exposed to them and understand them and that we connect to people in the right way.
The film focuses on fashion, what's Vauxhall's link to fashion?
Well, the automotive industry is the fashion business on wheels. It really is. If you think about how much emotion is connected to the purchase of a vehicle and the relative expense of a vehicle, compared to going out and buying a shirt or dress, that's significant. We want to use that and connect the brand to things that are cool.
Also, the fashion industry is very quick and vibrant, and that's what we want to be. Quick, vibrant. We want to react and be early responders to trends. We're a dynamic brand with dynamic brands.
How much did director Katy England bring to the project?
She brought a very dynamic spirit to the project. We're all about finding people who fit the right spirit and character that fit how we want to push the brand forward. Katy is a great fit, she really challenges some of those things.
It's great to bring in someone who's got so much experience in the style world. She's styled Kate Moss. She brings a lot to the project, but it's something new for her, so it's good to push each other. In this business it's good to feel a bit uncomfortable. If you don't explore new things you have to question whether you're doing enough.
Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) is Katy's husband wrote the soundtrack, did that help bring the project to another level?
Absolutely. If you get someone of that pedigree it brings a whole new level of integrity to the project, without a doubt.
In terms of the youth tribes in the film, how much influence did Vauxhall have in choosing who would be featured?
That was really Katy. For me, that's about learning and seeing things from other people's perspective. Giving Katy free reign helps us to really explore these different areas of Britain. You see places you've seen before, you see places you've never seen, so that's real. It spreads your horizons and really pushes things.
It can be hard to predict the next youth movement, the next trend. When you're designing a vehicle, it doesn't come to the road for at least two to three years so we've got to be thinking a lot further out, 3,4, 10 years ahead. The danger of a lot of people is to look in the rear-view mirror. 'What's happened already and where are we now?' That's irrelevant. The world changes so quickly, so if you want to be relevant, you've got to do a lot of predicting. You have to take bets. The companies that predict and get close, they're the companies that create something very powerful.
If we're wrong, that's hundreds of millions in investment that we've wasted. You have to gamble, but the risks have to be well educated. If you have a good feel of how things are going to be, it helps to reduce the risk.
With this in mind, what would be the three things you keep in mind when designing a car?
The first thing would be the demographic. 'Who is this car for?' What's interesting is that doesn't mean that's everyone who's going to end up buying the car. What you tend to find is you have a bandwidth of people who eventually buy the car, but only a specific group you want to target. The ADAM was a great example of that.
The second thing is, 'What are we doing for our brand?' Ten years ago we were a bit inconsistent. There wasn't enough to tie these cars together and say they represented the Vauxhall brand. Today, from the design perspective, we're really thinking about consistency. What the shapes are like, the materials etc. There's a DNA link, but with different personalities, much like the different groups in the film.
Thirdly, we try to get the technology as on the ball as possible. Recently we've had the smart phone explosion. In the last five years we've had that take over, so who knows what'll happen in ten years? It's a really exciting time for technology and we want to make the most of it.
To use an analogy, Vauxhall is like my family. I know that sounds corny, but my three children each have a bit of me and a little bit of my wife. Looks, personality, habits. They're got our DNA but they're all individuals. They look and act differently, but they have things that tie them together. That's what I want our cars to be like. Different cars tied together by the Vauxhall DNA.
Finally, what do you most enjoy about driving?
I like to have fun. I like to drive down a country road with no cars about. I hate automatic transitions. I like to be connected to the car. I like to feel the road. That's relaxing.