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A No Limits Mindset

When we ask our student interns to envision the vehicle of the future, they come up with ideas designed to challenge the automotive world.

There was the two-seater car that you pedal, designed to capture the energy and exhilaration of riding a bike. Sure, the vehicle had a little electric assist to give it a boost, but it had no internal-combustion engine, liquid fuel or many of the usual vehicle components.

The pedal car was a riff on the enormous mountain-bike industry, something that got its modest start with kids out in Northern California. While this young designer’s vision is not bound for production, we were intrigued by her idea because it embodies an unconventional vehicle built around a specific passion, something that is becoming increasingly important in our industry.

Another one of our interns came up with a minimalist vehicle inspired by “glamping,” a new style of camping with luxury amenities and an eye on sharing the experience. In this case, the car is the campsite, a vehicle designed to get you outdoors, with tech features that enable you to share the trip with friends.

Our constant engagement with young designers and engineers highlights two important trends: the need to “create your own brand” and the changing definition of the car.

Of course, brands aren’t going away, but based on what we’re seeing from millennials, brands that survive will connect to something substantial and personal. Our students tell us they want to be linked to like-minded people around an activity or an emotion – not just a brand.

The expectations for how we use a vehicle are shifting more toward the needs of the individual, something that the “glamping” car drove home.

As we move toward self-driving cars and ride sharing, the lighting and all of the different entry points on a vehicle will change. The trunk may become a fifth large door or move to the front of the car. There may even be two trunks, one in front and one in the rear – a perfect setup for a nation of shoppers or glampers.

At Magna, we look to students and their ideas to help kick-start innovation and inspire us. They bring no restrictions, from the design studio to the robotics lab. They point to the future. We need to be ready for their ideas – and the time when an OEM finds the right application for them.

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Jim Quesenberry

Larry Erickson

The next change in automotive design may not be like the last one as customer expectations and technology innovations disrupt the industry. Refining an automaker’s response to these changes is where designers and engineers use their skills and experience to resolve problems while striving to appeal to public expectations. It’s a balance of what’s new and what’s known.

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