Take a close look at the Vauxhall Monza concept. Not hard, really, when it looks so pretty, but look closely because this concept previews the next wave of the company’s design language.
Speaking to British designer Mark Adams at the Frankfurt Motor Show while the Monza circled in front of us, he told TG.com how his gullwinged shooting brake “is Vauxhall design 2.0, if you like.”
He’s back at Vauxhall now, after a stint heading up Cadillac’s design team, and is tasked with creating a better ‘synergy’ between GM’s more premium US brand Buick, and Vauxhall. “Going forward we’ll have a broader consistency on the fundamentals of the cars, but each will still be tailored within the region and within the brand. We’re not going to dilute what an Opel or a Vauxhall needs to be, but what is clear is we do have the opportunity to get much more synergy between the brands around the world.
“I can very easily see the Monza sitting on a turntable in Shanghai or a turntable in New York, and it working perfectly relative to the brand position,” he adds.
It’s also a chance to tidy up some missed opportunities; an opportunity like selling the Cascada as a Buick across the pond where it would have likely sold more than here. “I think that is a great example about how Opel and Buick can work going forwards, because that car could easily live as a Buick. It wasn’t designed that way, but it very easily could, so that’s why having a smarter strategy at the very beginning is so important.”
Of course, the other point of the Monza is to evolve what started some ten years ago. “When I first joined Opel, we talked about creating a whole new design language to move away from what was then quite square, boxy vehicles,” he says. “The Monza is the beacon to say our next wave of cars will be very heavily influenced by this car.” As TG’s Paul Horrell has mentioned here, new Insignia will pinch cues from this.
So what of the car, then? “One of the key inspirations for this vehicle comes from a greyhound, believe it or not. You can see the powerful chest, going into this really deeply waisted area, and back into the powerful haunches. And unlike many other cars that are getting closer to the ground, this actually is pulling away from it. It’s also deliberately designed to look like a rear wheel drive car.”
It’s not, of course – it’s like the Ampera, so there’s an electric motor hooked up to a battery and generator. There’s also a 1.0-litre three-pot turbo engine that takes over as the range-extender, but rather than petrol, Vauxhall has modified the engine to run on compressed natural gas. So when the battery runs out, the engine powers the electric motor.
Squint though, and you could easily see this turned into a very sexy coupe, something that could act as a halo for the brand too (and work as a Buick, no less). “One of the clear things we need to do for Opel and Vauxhall is to build our brand image, and bringing in the right aspirational product at the right time. This could very easily evolve into something that could enhance that halo at the top of the portfolio.”
Adams now sits on the board, highlighting the importance Vauxhall places on design – “I have an equal voice with my engineering and marketing peers now” – but he also respects what Audi has done design wise – up to a point. “I’ve got to say I really admire Audi’s single mindedness of what they wanted to achieve as a brand.” We talk about the company’s ‘Russian Doll’ syndrome, and he laughs. “That’s why I hesitated when I said it. I think that’s something I have been trying to avoid the whole time during our development. I always talked about it like my family. Each of our kids (the cars around the room) has a different personality and character, but have the DNA of our brand running through.
“I would say on the other end of the scale, I love a lot of the Alfas, because they’re the opposite where they’ve got a lot of emotion, a lot of drama, but they’re maybe missing the substance. That’s why if you dial up too much one thing, you lose out on another. It’s finding that nice balance.”