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Design April, 19 2011

Volvo Concept Universe

Volvo‘s newest luxury car has been revealed in Shanghai. The Volvo Concept Universe is for the business man who appreciates understated luxury and Scandinavian craftsmanship. Designed by Jonathan Disley, the car is also the first  new Volvo since Chinese firm Geely acquired the company in March 2010.

Melding Chinese philosophy and Scandinavian aesthetics, the Concept Universe strives to redefine automotive luxury.

Images and full press release after the jump.

Today, at the Shanghai Auto Show, Volvo Cars visualises a masterpiece of Scandinavian design, inspired by Chinese philosophy. Concept Universe is Volvo’s most luxurious creation ever, and the brand’s answer to the question: “What is a beautiful car?” With this sculptural and luminary design study, Volvo wants to test a possible new design direction for the
brand.

“When we set out to create this concept, one of the first things I told the designers was not to draw cars for a week. With a pencil, one automatically draws hard lines, and that’s not what we wanted here. Instead I asked them to design sculptures. That way, we brought fluidity and a sculptural gracefulness to the Concept Universe. We reduced the number of lines, and took away all visual noise, to make it as simple and elegant as possible,” says Jonathan Disley, Strategic Design Manager Advanced, at Volvo Cars. “Without the edges, all lines are infinite, marking distinctive inspiration from Scandinavian furniture design as well as Chinese writing. The Concept Universe is entirely built by hand and took a strenuous 8000 hours to finish.”

With Volvo’s new tie to China in mind, the design director brought a more philosophical dimension to the design, as he wished for a car “with the depth of the universe and just as welcoming as the sun rising over a calm ocean.” This extraordinary brief brought about unexpected and inspiring discussions among the designers, and the director got what he wished for. The depth of the grill, with its layered design, luminary effects and planetary feel, resembles the universe, while an illumination bar between the tail lights reflect the colour spectra of the sun and the moon rising. Made of rubber compounds, the frosted tail lights accentuate a glowing, almost burning red light. The lights are with its silicone-like attributes also resistant to bumps and scratches.

At the same time as the Concept Universe opens the door into Volvo’s future, the design team found inspiration in Volvo’s iconic models of the past, such as the Volvo Amazon and Volvo PV 444. This is especially apparent in the concept’s smooth, rounded and soft lines. The inspirational pictures are to be found in Jonathan Disley’s design blog.

A car for the fashionable businessman appreciating Scandinavian Luxury
Volvo always designs cars with its customer’s needs and lifestyle in mind. Concept Universe is created for the confident, well-dressed businessman. It is not macho, but yet very muscular, not overstated but elegant and delicate in every detail. “Think of it as the car industry’s equivalence to a well-tailored Oswald Boateng suit,” Jonathan Disley continues. “When you see it at a distance, you get intrigued, and the feeling when you get close or inside, is one of exquisite luxury.”

With its foundation in Scandinavian luxury, the Concept Universe perfectly balances classic forms, authentic materials and contrasting textures. The designers were particularly inspired by the texture of George Jensen. This is evident in the way the design team used a “pumped” exterior and liquid metal colouring to achieve added fullness to the curved sections of the car. While the exterior calls for your immediate attention, the inside combines traditional craftsmanship and attributes rarely seen in a car.

The aniline leather seats are tailored with utmost craftsmanship, with backrests made from first-class wool, usually found only in the most exclusive suits. Open the pockets and notice the extraordinary stitchery and the lining fabric in a strong accent colour, showcasing Volvo’s attention to detail. The centre stack and panels are made in walnut with fine details in hand-painted china, giving a nod to Volvo’s new owner and the age-old trade tradition between Sweden and China.

Contrasting craftsmanship and modern technology There is a growing appreciation for the ingenious blend of design and technology among luxury car buyers, and Concept Universe offers a fascinating contrast between traditional craftsmanship and highly advanced features. The driver’s in-command environment has intuitive controls and a touch-screen that approaches the hand when the driver reaches towards it. There is also a full-colour 3D head-up display, originally developed for military aviation, presenting the speedometer, navigation system and other important information directly on the windshield, without requiring the driver to look away from his or her viewpoint.

“Just like fine luxury goods, this design feels handcrafted and durable enough to stand the test of time,” says Peter Horbury, Vice President Design at Volvo Car Corporation. “We will compete with the best with our unique kind of Scandinavian Design. It is unmatched in performance and technology, but without superficiality or complication.”

Premiered in Shanghai
Volvo Concept Universe is the first new design from Volvo since Chinese Geely acquired the company in March 2010. It is first shown at the Shanghai Motor Show on April 19, 2011. The Concept Universe will later be shown in Europe and in the United States.

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